PHOENIX — The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone but it has been especially difficult on children.
According to ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Emily Bashah, mental health referrals for kids ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade have increased this year.
“Anecdotally, I know a lot of psychologists who serve...children... minors, and adolescents are maxed out. They're not taking on any other referrals, and they're at capacity. So there really is a need that's out there,” Dr. Bashah said.
Nikki Kontz, the Clinical Director of Teen Lifeline, an Arizona-based non-profit that offers help to adolescents who are struggling emotionally, says that since the beginning of the pandemic, Teen Lifeline’s peer-to-peer crisis hotline has seen an increase in the number of teens reaching out about feelings of anxiety and isolation.
As students transition from virtual learning and get back into the physical classroom, Kontz says she’s hearing from more and more teens who are concerned about their social life and academic performance.
“Many of the kids, as they go back into school, I think the number one thing that we see right now with youth is that… increased anxiety. Increased, almost panic, of not meeting expectations for their future, for their parents, for school, or maybe even the expectations they put on themselves,” Kontz said.
According to Kontz, parents and teachers need to be patient with kids as they adapt to changes in their daily life.
“We need to understand that they are going to be very anxious, both with school learning is very different. We need to make sure that we are really watching expectations, making sure that we're still having expectations that our children succeed and excel in the work that they do,” Kontz said. “But at the same time, making that realistic. To understand their academics and how they're learning and it's changing constantly. And that is definitely not in alignment with generations before."
Dr. Bashah, suggests that parents help their kids stick to a regular routine, so they know what to expect throughout the day.
“It's important to be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep and exercise and eat well, connect with your friends and family members,” Dr. Bashah said. “Spend time with your child in meaningful activities, whether it's...reading together, exercising, playing some board games, help your child stay socially connected. And parents should also take care of their own mental health to be able to best support their children.”
Teen Lifeline's call line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 602-248-8336 (TEEN). Text support is also available from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.