Helping kids cope with pandemic-driven mental health issues

Young people are facing significant mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, from school closures to family strains to isolation from friends.

Experts, including Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health’s Karestan Koenen, outlined the scope of the problem, as well as ways parents can help, in a February 2, 2022 American Heart Association article.

The article cited a global analysis that found that depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled among youth during the pandemic.

“Kids and adolescents are going through a lot,” said Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology. She noted that tweens and teens have been hit particularly hard, and that the biggest risk is having any kind of prior mental health problem, such as pre-existing anxiety, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Koenen noted that while some adolescent moodiness is normal, it can become a problem that may require professional help if it is interfering with their daily functioning. She advised parents to watch for their kids becoming particularly withdrawn, not eating, or expressing their distress. Beyond being supportive and listening to kids’ concerns, parents should also take care of themselves, Koenen said, noting that one of the biggest predictors of depression and anxiety in kids is parents’ own mental health and distress.

Read the American Heart Association article: Amid a national mental health crisis for kids, here’s how parents can help

Learn more

The Pandemic’s Toll on Children’s Mental Health (The Forum)