Googling COVID/pandemic including the phrase mental health results in 2,210,000 hits. Most certainly this is a topic that is relevant and updated daily to include studies that have been conducted around the world. It is truly mind-boggling the amount of information that is available in reference to how COVID stress has affected families worldwide to include our children. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mayo Clinic, UNICEF, and other agencies around the world have been addressing the pandemic and its mental health impact on families. The articles and studies have a consistent theme in that families are coping with a different kind of stress than they have previously experienced. The consensus is individuals can experience feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, and frustration. Daily routines have been significantly impacted along with financial pressures and social isolation. All these things can result in changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests. Individuals may have difficulty in concentrating and making decisions as well as having difficulty sleeping or nightmares. Physical reactions can also take place which include body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes. There can be an increase in the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances. Individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions have experienced a worsening of their symptomology during the course of the pandemic.
Children are also significantly impacted by the pandemic. Certainly their education has involved the feeling of uncertainty as to whether or not school would be in person or online. Upon returning to school, children have expressed worries about bringing germs home, facing peer stress, and wondering if they will contract the virus. Children can have behavioral issues in school because of their anxiety and fear often times because they do not know how to express their feelings appropriately.
UNICEF latest estimates in the fall of 2021 state that one in seven adolescent, ages 10 to 19, is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder globally. Wide gaps persist between mental health needs and mental health funding. Only 2% of government health budgets are allocated to mental health spending globally. A study in 21 countries conducted by UNICEF and Gallup previewed in the “State of the World’s Children 2021” further found that lockdowns have affected more than 1.6 billion children worldwide. The disruption of their routine, education, recreation, as well as concerns for family income and health is leaving young people feeling afraid, angry, and concerned for the future.
With that said there are also recommendations to cope with stress within our families. Taking care of your body is the main theme in many of the studies and articles. This would include eating healthy well-balanced meals, exercising, getting plenty of rest, and avoiding excessive tobacco, alcohol, and substance use. The limiting of devices is also suggested so one can connect better with individuals around them. Relax and recharge such as with yoga, medication, a hot bubble bath, listening to music or reading or listening to a book, find a technique that works for your family. Stick to a regular routine and stay busy so that you are not distracted by negative thoughts and feelings of anxiety and depression. Limit your exposure to the news media, focus on positive thoughts, use your moral compass or spiritual life or support and set priorities. Do something for others to connect with your family or a friend. Most importantly get professional help when you or a member of your family needs it. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional and talk to them about your anxiety and depression and get advice and guidance. Treatment options are available other than in person by mental health professionals to include phone appointments, video, or online appointments. They are ready, willing, and able to help so one just needs to reach out.
Please do not disregard the stress that you or your family members are feeling. This can lead to domestic violence, self-harm, or harm of others. Remember we are all in this pandemic together and we will come out of it with our mental health intact if we rely on one another and obtain the help we need.
Robin Hurmence, J.D.
Robin Hurmence Attorney at Law
Child Advocacy Center Board
Past Board President