How COVID-19 pandemic impacts children’s mental health

Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 8:39 PM EDT
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PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WTVM) - Life as we know changes by the day.

Due to the coronavirus and its impact on our lives, children are impacted especially hard whether we realize it or not.

Some 99 percent of the world’s children are currently living with restrictions on movement because of COVID-19 and that’s causing anxiety cases to skyrocket.

The coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented measures to contain its spread are disrupting nearly every aspect of children’s lives, including their health, development, learning, behavior, and mention their mental health, according to Dr. Ritu Chandra of Phenix City Children’s and Family Clinic in Alabama.

“Kids are being especially affected because they are young, they are sensitive and their routines have been disrupted," she said. "Kids are no longer going to school and for a host of other reasons we are just seeing very high incidents of kids with anxiety right now.”

Chandra said high anxiety also comes into play with kids being worried about their families’ economic security and their protection from violence and abuse.

Roger Kirk is a pediatric nurse practitioner with the clinic who said children are at great risk amid COVID-19 as high levels of stress and isolation can affect brain development that sometime leads to long-term consequences if left untreated.

“They don’t typically have the same symptoms of anxiety or depression as we do," he said. “It’s a lot of sleepiness, drowsiness, headache, apathy, poor eating, poor sleep. So, we are really focused on trying to get the kids structure their lives, or have the parents structure their lives for the kids. Make a set bed time, make a set wake up time, set a meal time. Don’t just try to free range everything because that leads to anxiety as well.”

With systems collapsing around children and loosing any sense of normalcy and security, Chandra said parents need to be especially cautious around their children during these uncertain times to protect their mental health.

“A lot of the adults are stressed and kids invariably feed off of the energy of their parents. So, it’s really important that parents are able to model some confidence while talking with their children. That way kids are not picking up the burdens of the coronavirus, finances, or any other stressors that parents are going through.”

Because of the pandemic, Phenix City Children and Family Clinic are using telehealth services to communicate with patients who may be struggling with mental health.

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