Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

COVID-19-related mental health challenges facing Florida's children

Jennifer Katzenstein, director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, spoke to FLORIDA TREND about the mental health challenges children are facing as a result of COVID-19 — and how the pandemic has likely changed how mental health services will be delivered to many children and families in the future.

  • What Professionals Are Seeing: “Initially, as the pandemic heightened, we saw an uptick in mental health concerns, including, as you would imagine, significant increases in anxiety and depression. And with the school year finishing virtually, and especially with our younger school-aged kids, we have been able to observe a significant increase in frustration at not being able to see their friends, frustrations and anxiety related to school. And then interestingly, as some kids have returned to camps and to some type of day-care situation as the state has opened back up, we have started to see an increase in anxiety related to those sites not always being able to follow the physical distancing and masking requirements that our kids have been hearing so much about.”
  • What Parents Can Do: “Look for any changes in behavior: Getting more irritable, more withdrawn, spending more time in their room, not talking to their parents, not getting out and about or not enjoying previously enjoyed activities. We’ve seen a couple of different things that we really want parents monitoring closely — one of those is social media usage and the content of that social media — and the second is really monitoring drug and alcohol use closely. It’s something that we didn’t talk as much about at the beginning, but we are starting to see increases in drug use and alcohol use. Part of it is they’re at home and we are maybe more likely to experiment with some things because we just don’t have the activities and other opportunities keeping us busy. Also, it’s a coping skill — a negative coping skill — but a coping skill. Parents should also monitor their own emotions and show healthy and positive coping strategies, so we can show our kids resiliency and show them that they’re safe.”
  • Moving to Telehealth: “One of the great things we’ve been able to do for our families who have needs is transition to telehealth. We’re learning a lot about tele-mental health. We are learning that it doesn't work for everyone, but it can be a great opportunity to provide care and to be able to reduce a barrier to access to mental health by the family not having to travel to come in and still having us in the home where we can see and experience what the child and family are experiencing. It allows for parents to worry less about having to maybe leave work or get their kid out of school. Certainly there are some barriers still in terms of internet connectivity that we want to be thoughtful about. And, also, I want to make sure to mention if there are concerns of self-harm or cutting or any suicidal thoughts then that's something that we really want to continue to see in person.”


Read more in Florida Trend's August issue.
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