In coming years, the pandemic will be long forgotten, yet, it may have a profoundly negative effect on many children who are experiencing anxiety caused by the pandemic today. Fear is not something that many children know how to deal with. In fact, most people have a difficult time expressing, understanding and eliminating the emotional feelings of fear in the physical body. This is one reason parents and those in health care must be hyper-vigilant to the signs that the pandemic may be having subtle emotional effects on the mental health of children.
Psychological Effects Of Pandemic Are Likely To Be Seen In Some Of Today’s Children Long After The Pandemic Has Been Forgotten
Even during normal times, adolescence is when most mental illnesses begin to show up. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 6 children in the U.S. aged 6 -17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Adolescents don’t understand their depression or anxiety, which makes it compelling to reach out for whatever makes them feel better. It’s safe to say that the fear of catching a deadly virus, which has made some children afraid to be around other people can be deeply anxiety provoking.
Mental Illness Often Contributes To Drug Use
Mental illness is very often a contributing factor to the tendency toward drug use. NAMI confirms that “substance use disorders, defined as the repeated misuse of alcohol and/or drugs, often occur simultaneously in individuals with mental illness, usually to cope with overwhelming symptoms.” NAMI further notes that 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions
To further complicate matters, very often the things that make them feel better are in the medicine and liquor cabinets in their own homes.
Be Alert For Common Symptoms Of Drug Use And Mental Illness
The fact is that substance use disorders and mental illness often go hand-in-hand. The combination of the two illnesses has its own term, according to NAMI. It is called dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders. And either disorder can develop first. Some signs to be alert to in your child include, but are not limited to the following:
• Withdrawal from friends and family
• Sudden changes in behavior
• Engaging in risky behaviors
Early Prevention And Treatment May Help Prevent Later Opioid Use
One of the most important things you can do as parents if you notice any of the signs that your child may be using drugs or developing mental illness is to seek treatment right away. The reason being, according to a recent study published at JAMAnetwork.com, “childhood tobacco use and chronic depression may be associated with impaired reward system functioning, which may increase young adults’ vulnerability to opioid-associated euphoria. Preventing and treating early substance use and childhood mental illness may help prevent later opioid use.” https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2773983?guestAccessKey=b3324492-a593-4805-98c6-269a2c30e7b0&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social_jamapsyc&utm_term=4691924617&utm_campaign=partnership&linkId=115201871
Set An Example For Your Children
As parents, the best way to teach our children is by example. For instance, instead of teaching your children that there’s a pill for every pain, explore the use of other ways to manage pain. Chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture, mindfulness and other modalities will steer children away from the belief that drugs are the answer to every problem. Once the brain’s reward system is broken it may be too late. I bring up the treatment of pain because it is only a matter of time until your child has a sports injury, car accident, tooth pulled or fall, and the ER or urgent care may prescribe an opioid for pain. With the underlying mental health issues described in this report, the last thing we should introduce is any opioid medication.
Early detection of potential issues is important. Especially in light of the past year and a half of heightened precautions and not knowing how much longer we will be living in a guarded state. Children are super vulnerable and sensitive. Let’s do everything we can to protect our children from suffering needlessly in the future as a result of conditions that exist today. Be vigilant and diligent in your children’s behavior.