The Pediatric Mental Health Crisis and What Maine Parents Can Do About It?
I'm just going to open with this: in general, the life of a kid can come with definite challenges that would warrant council or intervention from a qualified mental health professional.
Bullying, learning disorders, depression, body image disorders, disjointed homes, food insecurity are just a few things that I can rattle off, off the top of my head, that "typical kids" living in "normal times" might face.
But we are not living in normal times. Far, far from it. And instead of having more hands on deck, in the field of pediatric mental health, there's actually been a shortage of qualified children's mental health specialists to help families with kids navigate these incredibly trying last few years.
And according to the American Psychological Association 2022 Trends Report, the state of our children's mental health is at a crisis level.
"As the United States approaches 2 full years of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental illness and the demand for psychological services are at all-time highs—especially among children...Prior to COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data found 1 in 5 children had a mental disorder, but only about 20% of those children received care from a mental health provider. Whether kids are facing trauma because of child abuse or loss of a family member or everyday anxiety about the virus and unpredictable routines, they need even more support now—all amid a more significant shortage of children’s mental health resources."
In short, we have a situation where an already under-staffed profession is trying to serve an already underserved population that is growing faster than providers can keep up with.
And to top it off, another major stressor was just heaped on top of the world, with the news, which is inescapable at the moment, of what's happening around the globe, especially between Russia and Ukraine.
Our kids haven't had a break from being on high alert for two straight years now. Their nerves are understandably frayed. Unlike healthy adults, most kids don't quite have the emotional maturity and coping capability to process all the headlines and challenges they've been bombarded with since March of 2020. And the most recent headlines are really troubling...even to adults.
Of course, a soaring number of parents are seeking out professional help for their children. And it's likely that, due to the shortage of providers, it might take some time to get kids matched up with the appropriate services. So what else can parents be doing to support their children, in the meantime?
The National Association of School Psychologists says there are a number of ways adults can support children's mental health. Some of these methods include creating a strong sense of belonging, promoting resilience, competency, and positive behaviors and decision making. Also high up on the list of important things a parent can do to help their kids is to educate themselves on the symptoms and signs of mental health problems.
"Information helps break down the stigma surrounding mental health and enables adults and students to recognize when to seek help. School mental health professionals can provide useful information on symptoms of problems like depression or suicide risk. These can include a change in habits, withdrawal, decreased social and academic functioning, erratic or changed behavior, and increased physical complaints."
Another option coming up at the end of the month is a free webinar: The Introduction To Children's Mental Health.
According to the Webinar's Facebook Event Page, the event, which will be led by Jaymi Dormaier, LMSW, will last one hour and give an overview of information about children's mental health, which can apply to all ages kids.
"Mentally healthy children are able to reach developmental & emotional milestones, have positive social skills, and healthy ways to cope with problems. This introductory webinar explores how culture impacts our understanding of children’s mental health, some of the most common mental health symptoms and diagnoses for children, and when to seek help. This introductory webinar will prepare you for upcoming webinars on children's mental health."
The online event will take place on March 30th at 1:00 PM.
At the very least, arming oneself with knowledge, exercising more patience than we're used to, recognizing that the world feels different because it is different, and validating that for kids who feel lost in this, is a start.
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