When children learn at a distance, they see their teachers, mentors and friends less often; and spend more time on their personal electronic devices.
Scott Kennelly, director of the Butte County Behavioral Health Department, urges parents to look for the warning signs of depression and connect more with their children.
âWe don’t have that many teachers laying eyes on the kids; we don’t have other people seeing some of the behaviors, âKennelly said. âCheck in with your kids, see how their day goes regularly. Ask them open-ended questions and show that you care.
According to a health notice published in early December by the US Surgeon General, since the start of the pandemic, more and more young people are suffering from psychological distress, especially anxiety and depression. Among the many reasons for this, distance learning and social platforms are contributing factors.
âSchool has always been a primary source of socialization for children and a place where they can learn academically and engage in extracurricular activities and sports,â Kennelly said. âMuch of this has been dramatically disrupted by the pandemic. “
Kennelly said teachers are the primary source of referrals to the department and can keep an eye out for children who are showing behavioral changes or even signs of abuse.
âThis doesn’t happen with fewer kids coming to school,â Kennelly said.
Social media platforms displaying different beauty standards or heavy materialism also contributed to low self-esteem. Sometimes children spend more than 10 hours in front of a screen.
âJust because your kids are home and online studying, and you’re at work all day, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily doing well,â Kennelly said. “Watch out for your children, watch out for changes in behavior.”
The health advisory, titled “Protecting the Mental Health of Young People,” includes contributing risk factors for disease including, but not limited to, pre-pandemic mental health issues, concern about COVID, having parents or caregivers who were frontline workers, and routine disruptions such as not seeing friends or going to school.
The advisory also contains a long list of how individuals, businesses or communities can take action to combat the effects of the pandemic. It includes advice for youth, family members, educators, journalists, media organizations, tech companies, funders, and government.
To learn more about the advisory, what you or your organization can do, you can read the material at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-youth-mental-health- advisory. pdf.
The Butte County Behavioral Health Department is trying to combat this through school-based prevention programs that teach children and adults skills to reduce the development of mental health problems. One program, âStrengthening Familiesâ, connects families in conflict through individual and group therapy, followed by dinner.
âThese families are like ‘we just thought we had no hope, and after this streak we just talk and we don’t fight anymore,’â Kennelly said.
Sometimes the negative effects of mental well-being in a family can come from a parent himself who is unaware or does not accept their own mental health.
âIt’s really up to parents not only to watch their children, but also to know how they are doing; many parents also struggle and do not necessarily receive support.
The Butte County Behavioral Health Department’s prevention and treatment programs are available at https://www.buttecounty.net/behavioralhealth/.
âIf you’re having trouble, contact a friend, contact your parents. If you don’t feel up to it, contact your teacher, âKennelly said. “Every school has at least one school guidance counselor.”