Fort Worth, Texas,
08
April
2020
|
12:00 AM
America/Chicago

The Stress of COVID-19 Awareness on Kids with Mental Health Concerns

COVID-19, social distancing, unexpected home schooling and working from home have taken their toll on all of us.

Kids are not immune to the stressors of the new world in which we live. Especially, if they are in the population of children who might be even more at risk to the effects of social distancing: children and teens with existing mental health concerns.

“Parents are calling with concerns. Some of their children’s behaviors and fears are escalating,” said Lena Zettler, director of Psychology at Cook Children’s. “As parents learn to cope with the new normal, many are struggling with managing their own stresses in addition to their children’s mental health concerns.”

Steve Chennankara, D.O., a psychiatrist at Cook Children’s, states, “Children with mental health issues can be especially affected by any time of stress, particularly COVID-19, but they could be affected differently based on their underlying condition.”

Generalized anxiety disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

General stress about the infection and germ fear can lead to increased anxiety. Patients in this population are high risk for suicide during times of stress.

ADHD

Difficulty with hyperactivity and an inability to let off steam can cause stress for child and caregivers. Impulsivity can make keeping them healthy and safe more challenging.

Autism and other neurobehavioral disorders

Lack and structure and decreased access to their treatment team can lead to more outbursts and disruptive behavior.

Depression and other mood disorders

Social isolation can lead to worsening problems of depression. Identifying those struggling with depression during this time can be challenging.

Making yourself aware of some of the issues that can arise due to social distancing can help parents of children with mental health issues be better prepared to support their child or teen.

Here are some tips from the Kia Carter, M.D., psychiatrist at Cook Children’s:

  1. Find activities that help your child relax (books, music, meditation, exercise)
  2. Keep a routine as much as possible
  3. Use free time for connection and bonding
  4. Manage, as best you can, the amount and type of information that your child has access to

In the event that you feel you need extra help for your child or teen, the Cook Children’s Behavioral Health is here to help.

They are currently providing the following services:

  1. Intake department-The intake department fields calls from concerned parents who are home and provides behavioral health assessments for children who are in the ER or hospital in case of mental health concerns.
  2. Clinical therapy-The clinical therapists at Cook Children’s continue to see patients with a primary medical diagnosis for their emotional needs. These can be done on the in-patient floors of the hospital or via teleconference for home visits.
  3. Partial Hospitalization Program-This program continues to function with a smaller census in order to comply with CDC recommendations for COVID isolation. In addition to their routine care, therapists have begun to incorporate discussions related to COVID-19 associated stress.
  4. Inpatient psychiatry-If more intensive care is deemed necessary, children and teens can be admitted for inpatient psychiatric care. Changes have been made to accommodate social distancing. Visitors are allowed but only two direct caregivers and no siblings. COVID-19 associated information has been included in this program as well.
  5. Post-discharge Management-After discharge from the hospital, case managers from the Behavioral Health team continue to provide supports and resources to families.

“Parents are calling with concerns. Some of their children’s behaviors and fears are escalating,” said Lena Zettler, director of Psychology at Cook Children’s. “As parents learn to cope with the new normal, many are struggling with managing their own stresses in addition to their children’s mental health concerns.”

Steve Chennankara, D.O., a psychiatrist at Cook Children’s, states, “Children with mental health issues can be especially affected by any time of stress, particularly COVID-19, but they could be affected differently based on their underlying condition.”

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