PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - According to a CDC report, mental health-related emergency department visits are up 24 percent for kids ages five to 11 and up 31 percent for kids ages 12 to 17.
Dr. Beth Torwekar works at Randall Children’s Hospital and sees this firsthand.
“We’re seeing increased depression, anxiety, as well as increased eating disorders, and then in kids of all ages, just sort of the physical manifestations of stress,” she said.
It’s not just at hospitals. Dr. Deidre Burton with Metropolitan Pediatrics said she’s treating more kids during office visits as well.
“Some of our kids are more withdrawn, they’re not engaging, they’re not doing the activities they usually would like to do, so we’re just seeing a lot more sadness and anxiety,” said Burton.
Burton said school-aged kids have been especially impacted.
“Going to school virtually is devastating for our kids, frankly. The things that help them be resilient and help them achieve their developmental milestones have just been stripped away," said Burton. "But if you look at European countries, they basically did the reverse of what we did. They’ve closed their pubs and restaurants and service industries, but kept their schools open and what we’ve seen is that schools have not been large centers of cluster spreads or sources of infection.”
“So, at this point, I’m concerned that the short-term risks and long-term impact on the emotional well-being of our children and their development is going to outweigh the benefit of being home,” Burton continued.
Pediatricians are urging parents to look for signs of stress during this time and regularly check in with their child’s doctor if they have questions or concerns.
“It could be more challenges with sleeping, sleep training in your infants and toddlers, loss of milestones, like maybe your baby was sleeping through the night and now it’s harder,” said Torwekar. “In your school-ages kids, somatic symptoms, you know, belly aches, headaches, stress.”
“All of these are probably fairly normal during this time,” continued Torwekar.
They also said parents should take action when they think it’s time.
“I would always say that if a parent feels worried about their child, they should trust their gut,” said Torwekar. “As far as more hard and fast guidelines for us as pediatricians, we often think of objective markers, like a kid is losing weight, a kid has lost school performance, or is exhibiting poor hygiene, or a teenager is engaging in high-risk behaviors, like substance abuse, things that they hadn’t engaged in before any time.”
“And then of course, any time a teenager is confessing thoughts of self-harm or feeling suicidal, those would be for sure moments when they would need an evaluation by a medical provider,” she continued.
Both pediatricians suggest asking kids positive questions, like "what did you learn today or what’s something funny that happened," so they can celebrate small moments.
They also recommend being intentional about setting up virtual or socially distanced hang outs with their friends.
Finally, they said just be gentle with yourself and your kids during this time.
Dr. Torwekar wrote a book about COVID-19, targeted towards kids. For more information, click here.
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