Covid-19 has impacted the lives of everyone around the world in an unprecedented manner. Most nations have adopted insolation and social distancing as strategies to prevent the spread of infection. Countries, including the United States, implemented lockdowns that resulted in closure of schools, educational institutions, sports facilities and activity areas were shut down. People could no longer socialize or travel. These circumstances lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness and helplessness.
The pandemic has been particularly challenging for children and adolescents. The exact nature of the impact on adolescents depends on various factors such as age, pre-existing mental health conditions, having special needs, being economically disadvantaged, self/parent being infected or quarantined, and others.
The most tragic outcome of Covid-19 pandemic has been children losing their parents or caregivers to the illness. In the United States, over 140,000 children lost their parent or grandparent caregiver to Covid-19. Children of ethnic and racial minority families have been worse affected. It has been shown that their risk of losing a caregiver to Covid is 1.1-4.5 times higher compared to non-Hispanic Caucasian children. To make matters worse, many families lost jobs and with no steady income, their important supports such as school and healthcare services also got disrupted.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Children’s Hospital Association observed, “This worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health is inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice and represents an acceleration of trends observed prior to 2020. Rates of childhood mental health concerns and suicide rose steadily between 2010 and 2020 and by 2018 suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. The pandemic has intensified this crisis.”
Since the pandemic started, hospitals have been witnessing more mental health emergencies among children and adolescents. Beginning April 2020, the percentage of children’s mental health related Emergency Department visits among all pediatric Emergency Department visits increased and remained high through October. The period coincides with the time when the pandemic was at its worse and most of the nation was under lockdown. Compared to 2019, the percentage of mental health related visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 increased by 24% and 31% respectively. Moreover, in early 2021, there was also a 50% increase in emergency visits for suspected suicide attempt among girls ages 12-17 and 3.7% among boys compared to the same period in 2019.
It was only recently that things had started looking up and life was coming back to near-normal and we are again staring at another wave fueled by Omicron, the new Covid 19 variant. Even though there are vaccines available for adolescents, the Covid related stress is bound to have lasting effects on the fragile mental health of children and adolescents.
Let us face it; being an adolescent is tough and Covid 19 pandemic has made it even harder. As a parent, make sure you check in with your adolescent often and look for any signs of stress and anxiety such as agitation, sleeping and eating disturbances, physical issues, poor concentration, increase in conflicts, and delinquent behavior. If you think they are struggling, do not hesitate to seek help. Tell your child that anxiety is completely normal and help them figure out how they can feel in more control. Remember, a mental health experts are here to help. When the child is experiencing intense emotional and mental health challenges, it is best to speak to someone who can listen to them, understand their concerns, counsel them appropriately and help them overcome their issues.
Adolescents are valuable human beings and their mental health cannot be ignored.
December 29, 2021 • from thetayloruastingroup.com