17 Mar Addressing Mental Health During COVID-19
By: Shauna Freedman, Psy.D.
During this unprecedented time, it is important to keep in mind ways to address your child’s mental health needs. As Social Distancing temporarily becomes the new norm, rates of depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues may increase, especially if your child has previous or current diagnoses. As a result, we would like to offer some tips for families to help your children feel emotionally safe during this time.
- First and foremost, please continue to have your children seek mental health care. Almost all mental health clinicians are offering telehealth options, so please take advantage of this new technology to ensure your child receives the care they need. Insurance companies are making exceptions and most will cover telehealth services. We recognize telehealth may not be ideal for many as environmental constraints, such as privacy in the home, could be a factor; however, it is better than going possibly an extended period of time without treatment. Please contact your mental health clinician for more information on setting up appointments in person or over telehealth.
- Isolation from school, activities, and peers may increase rates of suicidal ideation or self-harm. If your child has ever experienced either, please monitor your child closely at home, which includes making sure your child is not spending all day alone in his or her room, keeping weapons and/or sharp objects locked away and out of reach, and having continued open discussions with your child on how they are coping. If at any point you are concerned about your child’s safety or believe he or she is imminent danger of harming self or others, please call 911 or proceed to your nearest emergency room.
- Make sure your child has some sort of social connection with a friend daily. This may include over FaceTime, video chat, text, or phone calls. During Social Distancing, social connection through these modalities is more important than ever.
- As weather permits, spend time outside whether that be for a walk in your neighborhood or playing in your yard.
- Exercising is also important to continue during this time. You may need to get creative with exercises, as group fitness or gyms are likely not available right now. Children can practice yoga, pilates, do simple stretches, use household exercise equipment (if available), or walks outside. You and your child can search the web together to find fitness videos that can be done in the home.
- Encourage your child to continue using healthy coping strategies, such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness. Apps such as Calm, provide guided breathing and visualizations.
- Encourage your child to engage in enjoyable activities within the home. You can even find new hobbies to get interested in such as art, crafts, music, learning a new technological skill, etc.
- Try to keep some sort of routine to the best of your ability. Without the daily structure of school and activities, try to keep a schedule as if your child was in school. For instance, time for doing academic work, relaxing, eating, etc.
- As parents, take time for yourself when you can. These coming weeks will likely be stressful for you as well and it is important to self-care. This can include taking time for yourself at home, continuing therapy with your own clinician, eating healthy, having phone contact with family or friends, exercising, etc.
- Remind your child that it is okay to have many different feelings during this stressful time. Encourage open conversations with your children. This is a good time to model for your children how to manage anxiety and the unknown during stressful times.
We are here to help you and your family during this pandemic. Any new patients interested in services can speak to your child’s pediatrician to set up an appointment with a mental health clinician. For current patients, please continue to have communication with your therapist. For any additional questions or concerns, please contact your PediaTrust pediatrician or PCPA’s Director of Pediatrics, Dr. Shauna Freedman at email@example.com.