February 1st through the 5th marks Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital (Bakersfield Behavioral) recognizes the importance of shedding light on the growing needs of our youth’s mental health, especially as the pandemic continues into the new year.
According to an article taken from The US National Library of Medicine from the National Institute of Health, they looked at the impact of COVID-19, the lockdown that ensued, and how that affected the mental health of our youth. “The COVID-19 pandemic that led to a lockdown has brought about a sense of fear and anxiety around the globe”, the article stated. The study that was performed looked at all children, however, the biggest impact seemed to be on those most vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents with pre-existing mental health conditions, those being economically underprivileged, developmental age, educational status, or those being quarantined due to infection or fear of infection.
For those who have already been living and possibly struggling with their mental health, the onset of the pandemic accompanied by its many restrictions and subsequent challenges can most definitely add to one’s anxiety and depression. When we look back on the year 2020 and the start of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty coupled with frequent and abrupt changes to most people’s normal activity and routines. Our children quickly had to adapt to the idea of no longer being able to socialize with their friends and family the way they once did. When schools made the move to virtual learning, our children were faced with new challenges of needing to self-regulate their time and self-motivate in order to get their school work accomplished and assignments turned. They now had parents or family members stepping into the roles once held solely by our schools and for many, this was a very difficult transition.
It is vital that during these times, we are paying attention not only to our children’s scholastic patterns but also that of their demeanor and language. If your child was already living with a mental health condition, during these times it's vital that we are having frequent conversations with them about how they are doing. There is a fear from some parents in regards to starting these conversations with their children, a concern that if they bring up depression and anxiety that it will somehow encourage those feelings within their children. It is important to remember that depression and anxiety, amongst other mental health conditions, are not brought on by simply discussing them, however, they are brought on by a medical condition that more times than not, need to be addressed and managed with the assistance of a health care professional. As a parent or a loved one of minors, it's important to keep an eye out for some signs and symptoms of what could be the onset of a mental health condition worsening. With all signs and symptoms, it important to remember that not all may apply, multiple may apply, or they may look a little differently with your loved one.
- Lack of interest in things that they used to enjoy
- Change in their behavior
- Secluding themselves from others
- Change in sleeping habits
- Change in eating habits
- Panic when a loved one has to leave to go to work or run errands
- Breaking out in a sweat or dizziness
- Not wanting to be separated from their loved ones for any reason
- A focus on death
- Self-harming behaviors
- Giving away of prized possessions
Amidst this pandemic, it is not uncommon for many to display some of these symptoms from time to time, however, you want to look for these symptoms lasting longer than two weeks. For some of the signs, however, you should take more immediate action. If someone you love is preoccupied with death, is harming themselves, or makes comments such as: I don’t want to live anymore, I don’t want to do this anymore, the world or you would be better off without me, etc. please take immediate action as these could be signs that your loved one is contemplating taking their own life.
According to the same article, it’s important that you increase your level of communication with your children. Encouraging healthy habits such as taking walks, staying active, playing games as a family, learning or participating in crafts or hobbies, scheduling virtual time with family and friends, can all have positive effects. Above all, make sure that you are reaching out to a professional if you feel as though your child may need help. Especially during these times, appointments with professionals can be difficult to obtain so knowing other resources is vital.
Bakersfield Behavioral invites you to use our website as a great source of vital local and national resources and invites you to contact us if at any point you feel your loved one may need to be assessed for services.