When the kids are not All Right

So much of the focus during the COVID-19 pandemic has been on protecting physical health. But there's another equally serious impact: the erosion of mental health, particularly among children and adolescents. This issue is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children's Hospital Association have declared a national emergency in children's mental health.

Even before the pandemic, childhood mental health had been declining for at least a decade.1 Then stay-at-home orders — and the physical isolation, uncertainty, fear and grief that came with them — led to significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety and stress.

You may have noticed that your child is a little out of sorts lately. Maybe they're scared to be away from you. Maybe they're more worried than usual about school. Or maybe they're afraid or even panicky that something bad might happen.

Fears, worries and sadness are part of growing up. But too many of these emotions can be a sign that your child may be struggling with their mental health.

Potential Signs of Depression2

  • Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Irritable or annoyed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason

Potential Signs of Anxiety3

  • Fear of being away from a parent or caregiver
  • Fear of certain things, like dogs, bugs or doctors
  • Fear of going to school or other places where there are lots of people
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Extreme anxiety, including panic attacks
  • Having trouble concentrating or thinking, especially at school
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having an upset stomach
  • Obsessive or compulsive behavior

How to Help Young People in Your Life

It's not always easy for children to talk about what's bothering them. Sometimes they're afraid of telling someone what's going on. Or they just may not have the words to express how they're feeling.

While you may not be able to resolve a young person's struggles, you can offer support. Talk to your child's doctor. Depending on the symptoms and severity, the doctor might recommend speaking to a counselor or therapist. This will give your child a new, safe place to talk about their difficulties. A mental health professional can also provide you and your child with skills to help them cope.

UC supports your and your family's behavioral health and encourages all community members to access care whenever needed.

Get Help

Contact Managed Health Network (MHN) at 800-663-9355, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Pacific time), and say "yes" when offered help in finding a provider with availability.

UCH provider. Search for behavioral health, clinical psychology or psychiatry.

Faculty & Staff Assistance Programs (employee assistance services) are free, confidential and available at each UC location.

For More Information

Learn more about your UC Blue & Gold HMO behavioral health benefits.

1 AAP News, October 19, 2021, publications.aap.org/aapnews/news/17718
2 CDC, Anxiety and Depression in Children, cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html
3 CDC, Anxiety and Depression in Children, cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html

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