Opinion: How COVID-19 is affecting kids’ mental health

This is the reality, you are living through these times. Many are suffering and should be helped in some way. Psychiatrists and other doctors who work with children say the pandemic has created a perfect storm of stressors for kids, increasing the risk of suicide for many.

It has exacerbated an ongoing children’s mental health crisis suicide rates had already been going up for almost a decade among children and youth, according to NPR. Recently, an abundance of suicidal children have been showing up in hospital emergency departments with more kids needing in-patient care after suicide attempts.

“Across the country, we’re hearing that there are increased numbers of serious suicidal attempts and suicidal deaths,” Dr. Susan Duffy told NPR.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between April and October 2020, kids who visited hospital emergency departments for mental health needs rose. At Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, children and teens hospitalized after suicide attempts increased from 67 to 108 between 2019 and 2020. In October 2020, it saw an increase of 250% compared to October 2019.

There has been a slight increase in 10-to-11-year-olds attempting, but the majority of kids she sees are teenagers. Other places are seeing a rise in 2020 numbers compared with 2019 as well

The coronavirus has intensified the stresses of that transition for many youths. It has been seen, concerns among teenage patients. According to Stanford Children’s Health, mental health issues, anxiety and depression have been a tremendous problem, and are worsening, in kids during the pandemic. 

The ongoing stress, fear, grief, isolation and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic can wear anyone down, but many children and teens have had an especially tough time coping emotionally. At the same time, many families have been separated from loved ones, according to Healthy Children. Children, adolescents and families who experienced the loss of a loved family member or friend to COVID-19 are at increased risk for mental health challenges.

Coronavirus has really impacted kids’ mental health, however; no one should be suffering or should have mental health issues due to it. Coronavirus has affected kids directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many kids’ social, emotional and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan.

How could we help?

We should all find a way to help each other. We should all find a way we could still communicate with each other and see each other in a safe way. We should stress less about things. And we should spend less time online and let our minds rest.

I believe that schools, parents and the government should try to do something to help all the kids that are going through tough times and need help. If we don’t do anything now we will have many people suffering from mental health issues. And it could get worse.

The pandemic has disrupted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for mental health is increasing, according to a new WHO survey. The survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding.

Coronavirus has really affected kids’ mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the stresses of that transition for many youths. A poll based on 977 parents of teenagers showed that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 teen boys have experienced new or worsening anxiety, according to Healthline

Since there’s no need for doing much, some kids may find themselves staying up later and sleeping in. The restrictions of the pandemic have been felt across the board. Restrictions for teenagers have resulted in months of virtual learning, time isolated from friends and the loss of important social activities like sports, school performances, graduations and proms, according to Healthline

But maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help teens stay healthy physically and mentally. During the first phase of the pandemic in the U.S., between March and April 2020, claims for mental health disorders increased by about 100% for the 13-18 group. 

The restrictions presented by the stay-at-home measures can make it hard for youth who long to test their independence. Being stuck at home and missing out on extracurricular activities can be tough. Children, adolescents and families who experienced the loss of a loved family member or friend to COVID-19 are at increased risk for mental health challenges.

Beyond getting sick, many kids’ social, emotional and well-being have been impacted by the pandemic. The ongoing fear, grief, isolation and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic can wear anyone down, many children and teens have had an especially tough time coping emotionally, according to Stanford Children’s Health.

Many families have been separated from loved ones and caregivers, including grandparents. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan. The pandemic is increasing the demand for mental health services.

Bereavement, isolation, loss of income,and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia and anxiety, according to the WHO.

The coronavirus is having a devastating impact across the world. It has also exposed children to an increased risk of violence including maltreatment, gender-based violence. Movement restrictions because of the lockdown have increased the likelihood that children are experiencing and observing “physical, psychological, and sexual abuse” at home, according to the WHO

On the contrary, online communities have been key in maintaining children’s learning, support and play, as well as increasing their chances of being cyberbullied and to risky online behavior and sexual exploitation, according to the WHO

School closure and no socializing have also been a reason for kid’s mental health being affected during these times. If schools have closure as part of necessary measures, then children may no longer have that sense of structure and stimulation that is provided by that environment and now they have less opportunity to be with their friends and get that social support that is essential for good mental well-being, according to the WHO.

When schools are closed, they lose an anchor in life and their symptoms could relapse. Social distancing measures can result in social isolation in an abusive home, with abuse likely exacerbated during this time of economic uncertainty and stress.

Kids feel like there is nothing to do now. All they want to do is stay in bed or in their rooms. They feel like there is no point in doing things and find no motivation in doing what they used to do before COVID. Since everything is online, some lock themselves inside their rooms for weeks, refusing to leave to shower or eat, according to The Lancet. For some children with depression, there will be considerable difficulties adjusting back to normal life when school resumes.

Not every child will experience the coronavirus as a trauma, and some have already learned healthy coping skills. Many were able to deal with and they haven’t faced any mental health issues due to it.

Wide-ranging research has shown that children who face adverse childhood experiences have a higher risk for worsening chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases, asthma, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse deep into adulthood, Burke Harris said. At higher risk are children who have experienced untreated trauma before this outbreak, according to The Los Angeles.

Many kids have experienced mental health issues even before the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, more than one in ten (16%) adolescents ages 12 to 17 had anxiety and/or depression, according to the KFF. Many were already facing those problems.

In 2019, 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years, approximately 4.5 million have a diagnosed behavior problem. 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years, approximately 4.4 million have diagnosed anxiety. 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years, approximately 1.9 million have been diagnosed with depression, according to the CDC.  

This is indeed an unprecedented time for all of us, especially for children who face an enormous disruption to their lives. Children are likely to be experiencing worry, anxiety and fear, and this can include the types of fears that are very similar to those experienced by adults, such as a fear of dying, a fear of their relatives dying or a fear of what it means to receive medical treatment, according to the WHO.

If schools have closed as part of necessary measures, then children may no longer have that sense of structure and stimulation that is provided by that environment, and now they have less opportunity to be with their friends and get that social support that is essential for good mental well-being.

I have heard my classmates say that during these times they haven’t felt well or they have lost some close ones and that all affects their mental health. And I know that many others are suffering from many things right now too. With school closures and stay-at-home orders, it is likely that many cases are going undetected, and that at-risk children have increased exposure at home to their abusers.

Outside of mental health, substance use is also a concern among adolescents, according to The KFF. Solitary substance use has increased among adolescents during the pandemic associated with poorer mental health. Even though suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. prior to the pandemic, it ended up being the second leading cause of death among adolescents ages 12 to 17, according to The KFF.

We should try to bring these numbers down. 

COVID-19 has affected many people. However; many people may have different opinions on it. It has affected people in many different ways mentally and economically.

No one should be suffering or should have mental health issues due to it. We should all find a way we could still communicate with each other and see each other in a safe way. We should stress less about things. And we should spend less time online and let our minds rest. We should try to do something to help all the kids that are going through tough times and need help.

If we don’t do anything now we will have many people suffering from mental health issues, and it could get worse. 

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