2020 Holiday Season Taking a Toll on Children’s Mental Health

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or so it should’ve been. Children’s mental health issues are increasing across the nation as adolescents struggle to cope with distance learning and feelings of social isolation. Many children no longer have the opportunity to interact with friends or family members who are vulnerable to contracting the Coronavirus.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are typically times when family members come together to share a meal and exchange gifts. This year many families are opting to keep it small or not have a get-together at all in keeping with Covid guidelines.

A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “the proportion of children’s mental health-related Emergency Department” visits has “increased and remained elevated” from April through October when the report was first published. In comparison with 2019, “mental health-related visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.”

Pediatric psychologist Dr. Parker Huston believes that keeping things consistent for kids is really going to be key in addressing children’s emotions as the holidays arrive. He recommends sticking to routines when it comes to bedtime or playtime, and even cooking meals together in order to counteract the stress that comes from unpredictable circumstances.

Charlie Olsen, a local 5th grader in Auburn, N.H. was just elected last week as the newest Kid Governor; a role he takes seriously because of his own struggles with depression during this pandemic. Charlie’s platform consisted of organizing fundraisers to pay for children’s mental health treatment, creating a social network that promotes positivity, and developing a mentoring system called Children’s Awareness Support Team or C.A.S.T.

What should you do if you see your child struggling with depression? Look for warning signs such as a change in appetite or personality. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue. Contact your pediatrician or county mental health office for a list of available resources.

Written by: Kelly Stewart