COVID-19 Causes Rise in Mental Health Issues Among Kids

Liz Fe Lifestyle

The COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to have a negative impact on students’ mental health as they struggle to deal with social isolation, financial instability, and other worries. Health experts are alerting everyone to take safety precautions as COVID cases are on the rise as we head into the holidays. As it starts to get darker outside earlier during the day, these issues are likely going to become more prominent due to issues like seasonal depression.

Health experts say it’s had an even bigger impact on kids who have dealt with mental health or trauma in the past. DeWitt said that there is an increase in the number of kids dealing with mental health issues, and many of them are not getting the help that they need.

As mental health issues are on the rise, teachers are also noticing more behavioral issues inside of their classrooms.

Experts say that having kids learn back inside of classrooms is a healthy start, as routine and structure are things that help them.

For children with mental health struggles, school closures cause a lack of access to the resources they usually have. Having schools closed means that children were unable to access mental health support from their peer groups and teachers. For children with depression, it’s more difficult to adjust back to normal life after not having to go to school in person.

For children with special education needs like autism, having their routines disrupted can cause anger and frustration. Not being in person can cause children with these struggles to be delayed in their development when they aren’t meeting with their groups in person. There isn’t much research that’s been done on how prolonged school closures and social distancing affect the wellbeing of children. Forty-seven percent of parents with children who aren’t yet school-age reported that they’re more worried about their children’s social development. Parents with children ages 5-12 have reported that their children show higher levels of depression, anxiety, and overall psychological stress. Parents who had their children attend school online noticed that their children experienced overall worsened mental or emotional health than parents whose children attended school in person.

Private insurance data found that claims for OCD and tic disorders increased as a share of all medical claims for children ages 6-12 in 2020 compared to 2019. However, the diagnosis for ADHD in children these ages decreased in 2020. This may be because teachers aren’t able to notice the symptoms of ADHD if children aren’t taking in-person classes. LGBT youth and youth of color were found to have disproportionately larger statistics compared to other groups.

Prior to the pandemic, lots of children weren’t receiving help for mental health reasons due to things like cost, lack of providers, and limited insurance coverage. It’s likely that access to mental health care worsened during the pandemic. Many health care providers changed the ways that they deliver services, and children weren’t able to receive the health services they’d access in schools.

There’s evidence that suggests the availability of psychiatric beds in hospitals and mental health facilities has decreased during the pandemic. There was already a shortage of child psychiatric beds, which are needed for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and seeking emergency care, so an even shorter amount can be devastating for some. The lack of beds is due to some hospitals having to repurpose them to take care of a high number of patients with COVID-19. Some hospitals that were hit hard financially have even closed inpatient psychiatric units. Children in need of hospitalization for mental health disorders during the pandemic may be having challenges finding hospitals because of this.

Poor mental health outcomes and access to care issues among children are likely to persist beyond the pandemic. The pandemic also may increase the risk of children having adverse childhood experiences, like experiencing violence or being exposed to substance abuse, which can lead to long-term mental health problems. There’s a need for policymakers, providers, educators, parents, and researchers to consider the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic may impact children’s mental health in the long term.

There were bipartisan bills aimed at addressing mental health issues introduced during the pandemic. Several of these bills focus on children. The COVID-19 Mental Health Research Act proposes research on mental-health impacts from the pandemic, and the Rapid Mental Health Response For Colorado Youth is meant to establish a temporary program for youth to access mental health services at low cost. The American Rescue Plan Act provides financial support to families with children, and stimulus bills passed during the pandemic provided more financial support for mental health programs. These kinds of programs are needed now more than ever as children are still dealing with the impacts of the pandemic as they transition back to in-person classes. During this time, it’s important to keep an eye on how your children are coping and try to get help if you see them struggling with school.

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