Mental health issues on the rise in children as pandemic anniversary nears

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A national survey found nearly a third of high school students say they are depressed “much more than usual.”

Nearing the one-year anniversary of when the coronavirus pandemic hit, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are on the rise in children ages 6 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The research shows social isolation is making symptoms worse. Experts say it’s important to talk to your children about mental health, and it can help if you take the first step. 

“Being willing to be vulnerable and say, ‘it’s been a hard day for me too,’ and being willing to talk about it will make the kids feel a little more comfortable,” Clinical Education Manager at Hillside LPC, NCC Gaan Akers said.

Hear more advice from Gaan Akers below:

She says above all, work on adopting healthy coping mechanisms.

“Having good sleep rhythm, healthy eating, physical activity, those are all the things that are really important in order to maintain our mental health,” Akers suggests. 

Akers says it’s not always easy to know when you might need to seek professional help for your child — but looking out for signs is the first step. 

She warns depression doesn’t look the same in children as it does in adults. 

“Especially in younger children, depression and anxiety often come off as irritability,” she said. “With teenagers, it’s an increase in isolation and avoidant behavior.”

Akers says now is a great time to help your children build mental resilience.

“One really simple way to work with your kids in building mental resilience is giving them the vocabulary to communicate what’s going on,” Akers said. “So talking about their feelings and being able to allow them to feel what they feel.”

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