The Pandemic’s Impact on Children: COVID Vaccinations & Mental Health

Children’s health care professionals in the US have declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health. The ongoing stress, fear, grief, disruption of schooling and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on children and teens, and many are having a tough time coping emotionally.

Read the full article from NIHCM

Behavioral Health Resources for Back to School

As we see students and educators head back into the classroom and restart the in-person learning routine, the Department of Health (DOH) is providing behavioral health tips and resources for navigating the emotional responses that children, teens, and adults may experience during this exciting and stressful time.

The COVID-19 Back-to-Classroom THINK Toolbox is a resource to help with adjusting to the return of in-person school and learning. THINK, which stands for Teaching with Healthcare Informed Neurological strategies for Kids, is a toolbox with information to help school-age children and teens deal with the emotional impacts of COVID-19, and tips on how to build and maintain resilience and practice self-care during a disaster.

“Children and teens are uniquely affected by the pandemic,” says Dr. Kira Mauseth, co-lead for the behavioral health strike team at the Department of Health. “Children and youth process information differently than adults. They need different structures in place to support them through disasters and large transitions, such as promoting recovery in the classroom, and return to back-to-classroom education. The THINK Toolbox was developed to address these areas and some of the trauma and stress that we’ve all experienced as a result of the pandemic.”

Increased anxiety, acting out, and behavioral regression at home or at school are some of the behavioral health responses that parents, caregivers and teachers are likely to see or encounter in students this fall. Also be aware of “red flag behaviors” such as suicidal thinking or expression (talking about it), violence, and aggression – these behaviors will require more or additional professional support. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), they are twice as likely to experience more intense and more frequent behavior problems during the pandemic.

As schools are now open for in-person learning, ‘back to classroom’ education and recovery for students is also underway. When promoting recovery in the classroom, it is important to remember that some students come from groups that have been more severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this in mind, encouraging and building resilience for students is key! Activities that facilitate cooperation and communication, and helping children and youth develop self-efficacy (their belief in their ability to achieve a goal) are very important aspects for resilience in the classroom. Activities that also provide structure, consistency and the opportunity to contribute should also be strongly emphasized.

“As a parent and a physician, I know that in-person learning is hugely beneficial to children’s overall well-being,” says Umair Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “In-person interaction helps ensure equitable access to education for all students. The work we do now to keep them safe will, in the long term, lead to a brighter and healthier future for our kids.”

Teachers, coaches, school staff, mentors, parents, and caregivers are also at risk for additional anxiety right now. For these groups, practicing self-care in the ways that specifically work for them, is the best medicine. More than ever, patience and compassion are required right now.

Additional Resources:

Parents Report More Negative Pandemic Effects on Kids Who Attend School Virtually vs. In-Person

Parents are much more likely to report their kids are experiencing negative effects if they are going to school virtually during the pandemic than if they attend school in person.

The new findings from our KFF Vaccine Monitor underscore the importance of keeping kids in school in person, which means doing it safely with masking for younger children and school staff despite controversies over mask requirements.

Almost half (47%) of parents whose kids attended school virtually or a mix of in-person and virtual during the last school year say they fell behind academically compared with a quarter (26%) of parents whose kids attended all or mostly in person.

46% of parents say their kids attending schools virtually fell behind in their social and emotional development compared with 31% of kids who went to school.

One in five (22%) parents of kids who went to school say their kids experienced mental health or behavioral problems due to COVID, but the number rose to 39% for kids whose school experience was largely through a computer screen.

Analysis of the data showed that how children got their education (in-person or online) explained these differences in academic performance and wellbeing reported by parents, even when accounting for differences in the parent’s income or education or race or whether the schools were public or private.

The findings also reinforce the urgency of getting 12-18 year-olds and then younger children as well as school personnel vaccinated as soon as possible so children can safely return to school where their parents report they experience both better academic and mental health outcomes.

Read the original post here.

Four Things You Can do to Support Your Teen’s Mental Health

Whether you and your teen are getting along well or having challenges, it is important to show that you love and support them, that you can help them navigate tough times and that you are always there for them.

Here are four things to keep in mind when having that ‘how-are-you-doing?’ conversation with your teen and to show that you are always there for them.

1. Encourage them to share their feelings

  • Look for ways to check in with your teen. Ask them how their day has been and what they have been doing. It could be by inviting them to join you in a task, such as preparing dinner, so you can use the time to chat about their day.
  • Remind them that you are there for them, no matter what, and that you want to hear how they are feeling and what they are thinking. A few simple words of encouragement can help them feel comfortable sharing their feelings with you.
  • It is important to acknowledge and understand emotions they might be experiencing, even if it feels uncomfortable. When they open up to you, you can respond with “I understand”, “it sounds like a difficult situation” or “that makes sense”.
  • It can be easy to notice the things your teen is doing that you do not like. But also try to notice and praise them for something they are doing well — even something simple like cleaning up after themselves.

Read the full article from UNICEF.

How A Hospital And A School District Teamed Up To Help Kids In Emotional Crisis

In 2019, the Rockville Centre school district in Long Island, N.Y., was shaken by a string of student deaths, including the suicides of a recent graduate and a current student.

“When you get these losses, one after the other, you almost can’t get traction on normalcy,” says Noreen Leahy, an assistant superintendent at the school district. “You can’t get traction on kids functioning on a day-to-day basis in a school setting.”

To Leahy, the student suicides were a symptom of a children’s mental health crisis that had been brewing for years. She had observed a concerning uptick in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among students. Her school district had a team of mental health professionals, but Leahy says they couldn’t provide the kind of long-term care many students needed.

Read the full article from NPR.

The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019 (Figure 1). A KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss.”

Read the full article from KFF