The coronavirus pandemic has been associated with many mental health challenges. Research has shown that there has been an increase in substance abuse, mental disorders, and suicidal ideation. Moreover, symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder has considerably increased in the United States during April-June of 2020.
Covid-19 has reshaped our relationships, our daily routines, and social distancing has affected all of us, including our children. Though children are more resilient than their adult counterparts, they have had to adapt to a drastic new normal—a new normal that has turned their usual day-to-day routines upside down. Furthermore, children and teens are at a critical developmental stage where they need to have regular contact with people outside their homes. Unfortunately, because of this, mental health issues like anxiety, panic attacks, and depression and/or behavioral issues like moodiness, anger outburst, or temper-tantrums have materialized.
In fact, one study published in The Journal of Pediatrics revealed that children felt uncertain, fearful, and isolated during current times, as well as the fact that children experienced disturbed sleep, nightmares, poor appetite, agitation, inattention, and separation-related anxiety (Jiao et al., 2020).
According to the study, measures suggested by pediatricians to parents and family members included increasing communication with children to address their fears and concerns, playing collaborative games to alleviate loneliness, encouraging activities that promote physical activity and using music therapy in the form of singing to reduce the worry, fear, and stress that the child may feel (Jiao et al., 2020).
Perhaps even more concerning, at the end of June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed Americans on their mental health between March and June of this year, compared with the same time the previous year. Sadly, almost eleven percent of all respondents said they had "seriously considered" suicide in the past thirty days. For those ages 18 to 24, the number was one in four—more than twice as high (Czeisler et al., 2020).
So, what are some warning signs of suicidality in youths? The most obvious signs are verbally communicating or threatening to hurt or kill themselves—take these threats seriously. Additionally, a loss of interest in school activities or daily activities, agitation, mood changes, and sleeping too much or too little can all be cautionary symptoms. It is also helpful to be aware of past family history and know about mental disorders or a family history of suicide.
If you should notice some changes in your child, it is essential that you begin talking with them. Though it may be a difficult conversation to have, be direct. Ask questions like, "how has the pandemic/lockdown affected you?" Or "are you thinking about killing yourself?" Let your teen know that you will not panic if they tell you the truth. Reassure them that you are there to help.
Provide and offer help to your child. Let them know that talking through their feelings could be very helpful and seek immediate professional help. The National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 provide 24/7 assistance.
Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Ave., Scotch Plains, New Jersey is now offering Zoom, Phone or FaceTime sessions. Meet with Christina H Chororos, our expert on grief, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Call us at 908-322-0112 for further information or visit us at www.hellenictherapy.com
Jiao W.Y., Wang L.N., Liu J., Fang S.F., Jiao F.Y., Pettoello-Mantovani M., Somekh E. Behavioral and emotional disorders in children during the COVID-19 epidemic. J. Pediatr., S0022-3476(20)30336-X. 2020 doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.03.013. PubMed
Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1external icon.