Children’s Hospitals Grapple With Wave of Mental Illness: Are We Doing Enough To Protect Our Children?

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The COVID-19 has affected the lives of people all around the globe. Restrictions and safety measures put in place to tamp down the spread of the virus have imposed a complete alteration of the psychosocial environment in the affected countries and has the potential of affecting the mental health of both adolescents and children. Although the isolation measures bring families opportunities to bond and also promote personal growth, there are disadvantages to these measures that might severely outweigh the benefits offered. Anxiety and the lack of physical peer contact could affect the lives of adolescents and children, especially those with existing mental issues or those who have disabilities or mental trauma.

The endeavors being made by the government to curtail the virus included online learning for many children leading to the cancelation of extracurricular activities. This has taken a toll on many children who are struggling to cope with the present situation. Figures from the government show that the number of children brought to the hospital for mental health issues has significantly risen by 24%, and so has the number of preteens and youths, which is by 31%. Hospitals have also reported a rise in the number of depression and suicidal issues amongst children, especially those who attempt to overdose.

These intensive mental health care issues only serve to aggravate issues already plaguing the system. Some of these children can’t get a begin the psychiatric unit because the number of beds was reduced to still curtail the spread of the virus. Jason Willis, who is a psychologist, states that it won’t be long before a sort of tsunami heats the service system, which would be overwhelmed with the need for mental health care for kids. He empathizes that this might just be the tip of the iceberg.

Before the advent of the coronavirus, there were already millions of kids diagnosed with a mental health condition, and the forced isolation seem to cultivate loneliness and depression amongst these kids, which only adds to the difficulties already in play. Another psychologist, Terrie Andrews, who is the Administrator of behavioral health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida, states that although we are all social beings, teenagers are at a point where their peers are their grounding mechanism. When this is taken away from them, it could affect them in many ways.

The question then becomes if we’re doing enough to protect our children. A child’s mental health can get worse if there is family conflict, which is common during the pandemic due to the chaos. Many people are cut off from their peers, and families can no longer get away from each other as they are forced to isolate together. This can lead to an increased level of stress in situations that are already tensed.

Although there is a need for distance, children still require a form of social interaction as it is part of their mental health care. Facilities should devise ways to do this while still keeping the children safe. One way to successfully achieve this is by creating smaller pods to be able to carry out group therapy. Children at the Cincinnati Children hospital are provided with toys that are wiped clean afterward to play with. The main cure for this mental illness remains interaction; it works as much as a medication.

Forming a therapeutic connection has become difficult with the need for masks, which makes it hard to judge a person’s emotions by reading their faces. Online meetings don’t work for most, as patients find it hard to build trust with therapists over the internet. There’s just a bond that can only be developed physically, which technology can never replace or offer to you.

However, virtual platforms will have to work for now. Although being away from friends can be a tough adjustment, families would have to find an effective way to help their children adjust to the new lifestyle and also find ways to ease tensions at-home and keep up virtual communication with friends around the globe.

Reference
https://khn.org/news/article/childrens-hospitals-grapple-with-wave-of-mental-illness/

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