Since the pandemic started, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of mental health. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with a survey on adolescent behaviors and experiences. This survey found that greater than 1/3 of adolescents report feeling sad or hopeless on a persistent basis 1. The pandemic has taken a great toll on everyone, especially children.
The current United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is passionate about advocating for mental health and recently did an interview with Psych Central. He was quoted saying “I can’t think of something more important than making sure our kids are well and taking care of their physical and mental health…We have so much work to do – but as a country, we’ve been behind when it comes to investing in taking care of the mental health of our kids.”2. Below is a summary of some of the main points of the discussion.
The Impact of COVID on Kids
It is difficult to measure the impact of the pandemic on young people but it has definitely affected both their physical and mental health. Many kids have had COVID themselves or have had family members and/or friends with COVID. Some may have even lost someone close to them. It can be traumatic to have to deal with illness and death at such a young age.
There is also a lot still unknown about long COVID and future virus strains. Along with those stressors, kids have also had to deal with educational changes. Even though class is back in session, we just don’t know how the lost education time will affect them long-term. Educators have noticed that children seem to be suffering from more depression and anxiety.
Disparities in Healthcare
There are proven race, cultural, age and sexual orientation disparities in healthcare and these have greatly affected our young people during this pandemic. Dr. Murthy said, “I believe we all have three basic needs across cultures: 1. We all want to be seen and understood for who we are, 2. We all want to know that we matter, 3. We all want to feel that we are loved.” If young people feel that they don’t have good access to the healthcare system, that sends a negative message and will affect mental health.
What Parents Can Do to Help Their Kid’s Mental Health
One of the best ways to help children with their mental health is to talk to them about it. Let them know that you understand what they are feeling, that feelings are a part of being human and that it is okay to ask for help. Make sure children know that you love them unconditionally and that there is no shame in asking for help. Promote exercise because mental health and physical health are linked with each other. Even short family walks can make all the difference. Limit screen time for your kids because that could be negatively contributing to their mental health. Set a good example for them by following what you are telling them.
Read the original interview and article here.
- Adolescent behaviors and experiences survey – cdc.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 1). Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/su/pdfs/su7103a1-a5-H.pdf
2. Rice, A. (2022, April 28). Interview with U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy on Youth Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/health/us-surgeon-general-vivek-murthy-how-to-address-the-youth-mental-health-crisis