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Look for These Signs of Depression in Children, Teens During COVID-19

May 12, 2020

Children and adolescents are not immune to the stress stirred up by the COVID-19 pandemic, as disrupted schedules and separation from friends and activities leaves many of them feeling anxious and fearful.

Dr. Ari Steinberg, clinical supervisor of ambulatory services at the Institute of Living (IOL), part of Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network, said all of the typical mental health concerns currently affecting adults during the pandemic are also impacting younger people.

“Most kids are struggling at some level. What we have been seeing is an increase in depressive symptoms in the littler kids,” she explained, noting that depression at that age “may exhibit itself more as irritability and frustration.”

In teens, she said depression has also increased but their symptoms are similar to what you’d see in adults.

“We are seeing a lot more increased levels of anxiety and overwhelming worry I think is a result of the crisis,” Dr. Steinberg said. “We’re seeing a lot more conflict within the home within the family.”

Some of this, she explained, stems from being cooped-up at home with fewer resources and outlets for releasing pent-up emotions and tension. Increased numbers of teens, she said, are also turning to substance use.

One of the most important things she said parents can do is to help their children feel safe during the pandemic.

“We at the IOL are here to support them, but I think there are things that parents can do at home that don’t require intervention,” Dr. Steinberg said. “It’s key to help children feel safe and secure, (while) allowing them to do things in their control that help keep them safe. Everything feels so out of control right now for most of our children and adolescents.”

Things that give young people a sense of control including staying home, washing their hands, talking about their feelings with their parents and maintaining structure and routine.

“Have them follow the same routine they would if they were going getting up and going to school,” Dr. Steinberg said. “Get up at the same time every day, get dressed, perform their daily hygiene, brush their teeth, go to bed at a normal hour.”

“The other thing is allowing them to find moments of normalcy during the daytime that they could share things they could do anytime and doesn’t have to be specific to staying at home,” she said, suggesting family game or movie nights as options.

For more resources to help you children and teens through the stress of the pandemic, click here

The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is now scheduling virtual-health visits for mental health and addiction services. Call your provider for details. New patients can schedule a virtual visit by calling 1.888.984.2408.

Need to see your doctor? New Patient? For more information about Hartford HealthCare virtual health visits, click here.

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