Supporting Children And Their Mental Health Right Now

Since this blog is more based on personal experience than anything else, I’ve always felt more comfortable writing about what I know. Whether that’s something I’ve experienced or an experience that’s been shared with me, understanding what someone is thinking or feeling has always been important to me as a basis for a post. But I’ve been reading more news about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting children who now have to stay at home for school, and it’s got me thinking a lot about kid’s mental health during this difficult time.

To answer your first question, no I don’t have kids, and so this post isn’t coming from any sort of personal experience other than growing up in a household with a bunch of siblings. But I’m not here to discuss how to parent or raise anyone during a pandemic. Just like every demographic out there, children are a group that’s more heavily affected by mental health issues than you might think.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 6 kids in the U.S. aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder every year. These mental health disorders are categorized more generally than some adult diagnoses, but they have the same weight. Depression, anxiety and behavior disorders are all mental health issues to keep an eye out for. CDC data also suggests that depression and anxiety numbers grow as children get older and behavior disorders are highest during the ages of 6-11 years old.

Children’s mental health – namely, kids between the ages of 6-17 – has been a more prominent topic in recent years, and the stats prove that. It’s important to keep all of that in mind, because those numbers reflect that mental health is an important issue for children. And all of that was before a public health emergency.

Since I’m not an expert on the matter of raising kids or working with children with mental health disorders, I’m not going to be the one giving advice on how to best approach this topic. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available for free online that can help parents help their children get a handle on dealing with this pandemic. Most major players in the mental health field like the CDC and NAMI have pages that aim to help parents guide their children through this time. Even those more in the public health space like Children’s Hospital are providing advice and resources. The state of Maryland’s Public Awareness Campaign, Children’s Mental Health Matters, has a page dedicated to Coronavirus resources.

There are many dimensions to wellness, and mental health is just one of these areas. But understanding that a child might be feeling or behaving differently is something to keep in mind. Mental health is a topic that involves everyone, and having a conversation about how you’re feeling is a good place to start. It might not always require action, but awareness and talking are tools in the chest as we figure out how to take care of ourselves and each other during such a crazy time.

Bessel van der Kolk

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