How to address youth mental health challenges during the pandemic

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During the pandemic, there appears to be an increase in mental health symptoms including anxiety and depression in children and teenagers across the globe. Mental health symptoms of those with pre-existing mental health or chronic medical problems seem to be exacerbated by isolation and the concerns about the pandemic as well. It’s important to note that mental health is just as important as physical health and is influential as a child develops from birth through life.

Children may not be able to express what they are feeling and older kids and teenagers may not feel comfortable talking about their feelings. How can parents tell if their child may be struggling with mental or behavioral health if they don’t express their feeling directly to you?

Parents should ask their older children pointed questions about how they are doing. Mental health can be a topic normally discussed at the dinner table. Beyond asking, parents can watch for behaviors that demonstrate their child may need help. If you notice struggles with insomnia, excessive sleepiness, weight loss, weight gain, struggles in school, acting out, self-harm, low energy, and overall irritability it may be time to have a direct conversation and seek help.

Parents can act proactively to care for their children’s mental health. Outlets are very important for children. This could include sports, friends, grandparents, outdoor, and family activities. Families will have to get creative during the pandemic. Pediatricians can help parents navigate the challenges children face. They can provide mental health screenings, similar to many developmental screenings. Pediatricians can diagnose behavioral and mental conditions and will partner with behavioral providers to determine the best treatment plan for each individual child.

Patients have access to pediatric providers close to home. You can find other pediatricians like Dr. Morales Moreno, who practices at The Sugar House Health Center, by going to University of Utah Health Pediatrics.

LINK: Find a pediatrician near you.

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