Mental Health of Teens and Children Amidst the Global Pandemic
As we continue to ride the waves of the global pandemic, the mental health of our children and teens is of concern. CBC recently published an article stating that Alberta Children’s Hospital and doctors have seen an “unprecedented surge” in families seeking support for their children. The increase for children and teens seeking support for mental health has increased by 36%, and those seeking support related to self-harm has increased by 141% in 2021 compared to 2018. At RMPS, we have noted a similar trend, where with every lockdown, increase in restrictions, and school shutdowns/temporary closures, more children, teens and families reach out for support. This increased number of children, teens and families seeking support for mental health concerns seems undoubtedly related to the global pandemic.
The global pandemic has created a sense of uncertainty and living in the unknown, which impacts mental well-being. With each wave, there are school shutdowns and temporary closures, cancelled activities and social isolation. Social connection is essential to mental health, and the global pandemic has brought a multitude of other experiences and factors which are having compounding effects on the well-being of children and teens (e.g., missed milestones, not knowing if their school will be open next week). While we cannot predict the future, it is clear that providing teens and children with supports while they navigate these times is essential.
How can we support our children and teens?
There are several things parents can implement to support their children’s mental well-being. Parents can encourage an open dialogue with their children, although they are encouraged to be prepared that their child may not want to talk about their feelings and what is going on. In this case, let your child know that you respect them, and when they are ready, you will be available. Another valuable plan as a family may include learning and regularly practicing simple relaxation techniques. For instance, relaxation techniques to try out may include Deep Breathing (or belly breathing), progressive muscle relaxation, yoga videos, bouncing on a yoga ball et cetera. When you and your child find the technique you like the most, this can be part of your daily routine. Some scripts are available on Anxiety Canada’s website and through apps such as Calm, Headspace, Smiling Mind and Mindshift by Anxiety Canada. Wherever possible, parents may also wish to build routines in the day; having some sense of predictability (e.g., bedtimes and mealtimes) can reduce the unknowns. There are also a variety of community resources and crisis lines available (listed below), which can be accessed when necessary. Finally, parents, children and teens may wish to connect with a psychologist; this is strongly encouraged when their difficulties noticeably impact their daily lives. Members of our team can assist with individualized plans to support your child either individually and/or by consulting with parents regarding things that can be done at home.
- Distress Centre of Calgary Crisis Line – 403.266.HELP (4357).
- Calgary kids and teens face growing mental health crisis as pandemic drags on by Jennifer Lee, CBC news, posted: Oct 18, 2021.
- COVID-19: Depression and anxiety symptoms have doubled in youth, help needed, warn UCalgary clinical psychologists by Heath McCoy, Faculty of Arts University of Calgary.