Well … it’s true. This pandemic isn’t any fun. There are multiple side effects, not just of the virus itself, but in other ways which are harming all of us. One big thing is that our kids (and we, too) might be experiencing some short- and long-term mental health issues. While most of our kids have not had the virus, due to all the stressing and restrictions implemented in an attempt to safeguard us – like medications – this strategy has unintended and downright dangerous side effects! Other types of top-news events that have happened in the past, such as hurricanes, the 9/11 attacks, and school shootings, have demonstrated long-lasting emotional impact, especially on our kids.
Some of the mental health issues that kids have are anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior (especially seen in classrooms), sleep issues, substance use disorders, suicidal ideations (and unfortunately a very few completions). During times of crisis such as what we are experiencing now with coronavirus, rates of these adverse mental health issues go up even higher.
Some parents are hesitant to seek health care for non-pandemic-related illnesses, and that means that many health issues – usually preventable -- will get worse. Because many parents are not seeing their pediatricians, their kids’ developmental milestones, if delayed, are going undetected longer than need be.
As school is now starting, some districts are going to hybrid formats (some online, some in-classroom learning). But kids are being required to wear masks with the idea that this will help prevent the spread of disease. The CDC is recommending that masks be worn for kids over the age of two. However, if kids have communication problems, masks can be dangerous. If they can’t breathe properly, they are going to have trouble communicating that and in general. They may show signs of hyperventilating. Also consider the fact that kids touch their faces, eyes, noses, and mouths a great deal. Just because coronavirus is among us does not mean that colds are not. What about runny noses, sneezing, and coughing, which are also indicative of allergies? Masks may also contain chemicals that our kids are breathing in way too much of the time!
There is also much social isolation happening, partly due to pandemic governmental restrictions, but also very much due to fear. Kids are not visiting their friends in person, nor are they often seeing extended family for long periods of time. Think about this – we have hundreds of thousands of nerve endings on our skin; we were created for human touch, such as hugging! (How many hugs are you and your kids getting?!)
Family members who have trouble getting along have been confined more to close quarters, and there may be increased conflict within family members. In such times, many people feel the stress of our uncertain economy, and hence, their own cash flow. While Congress is debating about the amount of aid we are to receive, many people simply don’t have money to pay bills and live in fear of being evicted or having their utilities turned off. Some may be worrying about where their next meal is coming from.
A lot of this has been leading to lack of structure in our kids’ days, and this may also lead to increased screen time, less physical activity, and these kids may have more trouble concentrating, all of which can help create anxiety and depression.
So – what can we do? PLENTY!
Now you’ve heard a mouthful from us. Please give us your own ideas and how they are working!
As always, have a happy, holistically healthy day!
For more help with mental health in children and teens, view our resources page.
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.