COVID-19, Children, and Mental Health

by Katie Bonnett

Children will likely face PTSD as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One study found that “[c]riteria for PTSD was met in 30% of isolated or quarantined children.” Since the pandemic forces children to isolation for months, possibly even a year, the mental health effects will likely be severe. PTSD causes problems in children such as listlessness and insomnia. To counteract these effects of quarantine, it is urgent that more mental health support for children is available now rather than waiting until the pandemic is over.

Effects of the shelter at home orders must have monitoring, as we know that mental issues can also impact physical health. During the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, health officials have noted various comorbidities: people with pre-existing conditions like asthma may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Knowing this, it is important to recognize the link between mental health issues and the severity of asthma.

Ultimately, quarantine impacts mental health, which in turn affects physical health. Individuals in these circumstances will be more susceptible to the coronavirus. It is vital to get people the treatment they need.  We must care for mental and physical health during the pandemic to prevent more people from getting ill or dying from the coronavirus. The sooner we can slow the spread of the virus, the sooner it will be that life can return to a semblance of normal. Routines and getting back to work will also decrease some of the stress and depression brought on by the quarantine itself.

If children get PTSD or depression now, it can lead to an increased risk of physical health issues later in life. Some of the signs and symptoms of mental illness in children are a difference in school performance, a change in sleeping or eating habits, increased anger, negative moods, loss of interest in things they usually enjoy, and more time spent alone. “People with depression have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease[.]” Many of these conditions can alter someone’s life drastically after they get diagnosed.  To prevent children from getting a health issue that can impact their lives for years to come, more mental health resources must be available to children during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Mental Health America “[m]any people diagnosed with mental illness achieve strength and recovery through participating in individual or group treatment.”  To raise awareness, the different hotline numbers could be on the news and displayed on billboards in neighborhoods to reach the caregivers of struggling children.  That way parents and teachers will have more awareness about the resources.

Requiring check ups on children who were receiving mental health resources helps young people get the treatment they need. Someone from the school/health services could go to where the children live to administer mental health sessions. If someone were to check up on those who need services, it could also help people with difficulty traveling get treatment. Following safe social distancing guidelines or using telehealth could help to stop the spread of coronavirus during the sessions.

Incentivizing more virtual group treatment could increase the amount of mental health resources available. Insurance companies could expand plans and waive copays during the pandemic in order to incentivize people to seek help. If families weren’t as worried about the cost of mental health care, it may make them more willing to accept treatment. That way people can get the care they need with fewer professionals, decreasing the strain the mental health system is under due to COVID-19.

If we don’t address the lack of access to mental health resources children will grow up having to cope with potentially life-altering conditions; in direct contrast to why quarantine started in the first place. In order to prevent these effects, it is urgent that more mental health support is available for children now, rather than later.