COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many uncertainties, isolation, losses, cancellations… all the things that can make children (and us!) down and worried.
A recent analysis looking into 80 879 youths worldwide showed that the rate of depression in children during COVID was 25%: DOUBLE the pre-pandemic levels. This is a silent mental health crisis.
Possible signs of depression in older children/teens include:
– Changes in mood: irritability, feeling hopeless, rage, constant conflict with family and friends. This can be hard to differentiate from normal teenager mood swings, but the persistence of such symptoms is a clue.
– Withdrawal from personal relationships
– Physical symptoms such as frequent headaches/ stomach-aches
– A loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
– A hard time falling or staying asleep, OR excessive sleep
– Changes in appetite/ eating pattern/ weight
– Problems with memory, concentration or schoolwork
– Changes in appearance/ lack of personal hygiene
– Harsh self-assessment (e.g. I’m so ugly/fat)
– Thoughts about death or suicide
Helping children help deal with their feelings is important before they slide into deep depression. If you have serious concerns, enlist the help of your doctor and/or psychologist/counsellor.
The following may be helpful in reducing the feelings of aimlessness/anxiety:
1. The basics: eat healthily, control screen-time, sleep enough.
2. Encourage kids to stay active. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and releases feel-good endorphins.
3. Make plans with your children, be they family activities, planning for future holidays, on-line calls with friends.
4. Discuss creating new goals/ learning new skills.
5. Challenge negative or exaggerated thinking patterns: help put distorted negative feelings in perspective.
6. Help them to tolerate uncertainty. It’s OK that there is uncertainty- everyone is in the same boat and we need to adapt to it. This will not last forever!