Contributor: Dwight Weaver, Program Manager – Child & Adolescent Services
This time last year, it was hard to believe that this pandemic would cause such a disruption to our lives. That impact won’t be fully understood for years to come, but it is clear that our lives are forever changed.
As the pandemic seems to be coming to an end, it is imperative that we begin addressing the underlying mental health crisis that is still affecting children and families today. The compounded stresses and year of instability has led to an increase in the number of youth experiencing mental health issues.
As schools closed and transitioned to virtual learning, parents who typically went to work each day were now working from home while simultaneously teaching their children. This isolation from peers and social supports caused immense stress for our youth.
Now, as children and teens return to activities and communities reopen, our youth are beginning to regain some things lost to the pandemic. Even so, there is an acute need for mental health services to help our young people manage this transition. Moving forward we must adapt to their unique needs. Youth, who may still be learning how to appropriately express their thoughts and feelings, may have setbacks caused by the lack of social engagement. High school students have struggled with loss of traditions and milestones. All of these unique struggles can lead to negative feelings of loneliness, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
So how can we help our youth during this time?
Start with a conversation about resiliency. Resiliency factors can help us cope with changes, challenges, and complications that may arise in our life. The more resiliency we have, the better we are able to handle and overcome challenges in life. If we can support our youth with activities that build resiliency, then we can start the process of helping our youth overcome the difficulties of this past year.
Next, start moving forward. Normal may never be what it was before, but we can regain some of what was lost. Focusing on what we can control and encouraging our youth to re-engage in activities and reconnect with their communities, families, and friends promotes a healthy lifestyle and builds resiliency too. Both are effective in helping to overcome mental health challenges.
Finally, focus on mental health. Spend quality time with family and friends. The value of such small and simple activities cannot be overstated when it comes to your mental health. Build friendships, learn new skills, and socialize with peers in a positive learning environment. The solutions to the mental health challenges our young people face are within our reach.
Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana with corporate offices located in Terre Haute, IN. Services are provided to children, youth and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people who may be struggling with stress, life changes, or relationship issues as well as more serious problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and serious mental illnesses.
For information on Hamilton Center Services call (800) 742-0787.