During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health is more important than ever. Langsford invited Kristie V. Schultz, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Norton Children’s Behavioral and Mental Health to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being of children and adolescents. She shared suggestions to help families and teachers support children.
Impact on Mental Health
Dr. Schultz stressed that while threatening physical health effects may personally impact some, the mental health consequences will affect everyone. These consequences include increased stress, fear, low self-esteem, irritability, helplessness, loneliness, insomnia, social isolation, depression, anxiety, PTSD, panic disorder, and more. Impacts can occur immediately but also last over a long period of time. Watch the full video replay to learn more.
Impact on Youth
Dr. Schultz explained that children’s lives are being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is impacting nearly every aspect of a child’s life. Younger children are at greater risk due to high levels of stress, fear, and isolation – all of which can affect brain and emotional development. Children of color tend to be impacted the most, due to a significant number of lost community members.
In a 2020 survey, a high percentage of children reported difficulty concentrating. Another similar survey found that children were more clingy to their caregivers, and more inattentive and irritable overall.
Dr. Schultz stressed that we should emphasize “physical distancing,” not “social distancing.” We should still make sure children are socially engaged with others. We may have to be creative to find ways to do this.
Signs of distress in children include: tantrums, clinginess, fear of being alone, restlessness, increased crying, fussiness, or aggressiveness, stomachaches or headaches, regressive behaviors.
Signs of distress in adolescents include: disappointment in cancellation of events, frustration and boredom, increased irritability, feeling disconnected, isolating from others, loss of interest in activities, substance use or self-injurious behavior.
All youth may have trouble sleeping, withdraw more, or have difficulty concentrating. It’s important that we recognize these signs and provide assurance or refer to a mental health professional as needed.
How to Provide Support
Dr. Schultz’s suggestions are:
- Create and implement a schedule as much as possible
- Explain the pandemic in an age-appropriate way
- Foster resilience and provide support
- Adults and families model positive psychological attitude
- Divert attention to more positive and productive directions
- Limit media coverage
- Ask how children and adolescents are feeling and facilitate open communication
- Relationships with trusted adults are critical
Resources for Children and Teens
Crisis Text Hotline: Text HOME to 741741
Crisis Text Hotline for Young People of Color: Text STEVE to 741741
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800.273.8255
For LGBTQ Youth, The Trevor Project: www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/