It’s safe to say 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone in one way or another. According to Mental Health America, people across the country with moderate to severe depression and anxiety symptoms have increased throughout 2020, and have remained higher than recorded rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the pandemic has also deeply affected American youth. It has been reported that the proportion of children ages 11 – 17 searching for mental health help has increased by 9% since 2019, and are also more likely than any other age group to show moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. In short, the mental health of American Youth is worsening, with 9.7% having severe depression, jumping up from 9.2% in 2019. With statistics like these, it’s a good time to check in with your child and the state of their mental well-being.
Know the Warning Signs
Changes in Behavior
Behavioral changes can reveal themselves in a multitude of ways. Some of these changes can be identified in learning environments and may include difficulty concentrating, or changes in performance. In a pandemic where the majority of the learning is virtual, it may be difficult to distinguish whether it’s a mental health issue, a virtual learning issue, or a combination of both. If your child is also showing less interest in activities that they normally enjoy, displaying big emotions (outbursts of sadness or anger), wanting to be alone or having trouble sleeping, these all may be indicative of mental health struggles.
Changes in Feelings
When your child is facing problems with their mental health, it may be difficult for them to articulate their feelings. They may feel hopeless, rejected or lonely. These emotions may coincide with a more withdrawn, solitary behavior. Feeling worried or fearful about seemingly small things are common with anxiety. Negative thoughts exemplify a change in mindset that may suggest a shift in your child’s mental wellness.
Weight changes, lack of energy, or frequent complaints of headaches and stomach aches can be some of the physical manifestations of mental health issues. Physical changes could correlate with a number of different mental health problems and should be addressed.
How to Help
With so much isolation caused by the pandemic, family dinners and quality time are more important than they’ve ever been. With friends, classmates and teachers needing to remain six feet apart, there is a greater reliance on family ties. Show your child that you’re there for them, and be present when you spend time together. Having this connection can help with feelings of loneliness.
It’s easy to dismiss overreactions and tantrums, but these are often cries for help. Let your child know it’s OK to feel these feelings, and encourage them to share how they feel. Ask questions to promote more conversation. Listening to your child instead of reacting can help them open up and work through these feelings.
Nurture Self Esteem
Self esteem can be difficult to achieve, especially as an adolescent. Helping your child set realistic goals, and praising your child for both effort and accomplishments can help create confidence. It’s important to also model self esteem at home. If a child sees negativity and insecurity, they’re likely to feel that way about themselves.
Create a Safe Environment At Home
Between stay at home orders and restrictions on where we can do, it is important to ensure your home is a safe space for your child. During the pandemic the home serves as a school and place to socialize as well as a place to eat, sleep and relax. Make sure your home is conducive to all of these environments. It’s also a good idea to monitor social media use and screen time and to promote time for playing and interacting with the rest of the family.
There is nothing wrong with seeking help. At Carithers Pediatrics, we can discuss behavioral and psychological concerns you may have and offer advice, referrals, and treatment where indicated.
Make an Appointment
The team at Carithers Pediatric Group is here to provide comprehensive care for your children at all stages of life. If you have concerns about mental health concerns in children or teens and want to make an appointment, call our Riverside office at (904) 387-6200 or our Southside office at (904) 997-0023.