Pandemic Mental Health: It’s More Important than Ever for Parents and Youth to Make Mental Health a Priority
By Judy Lester, Treatment Director, Licensed Independent Social Work Supervisor, Advanced Certified Trauma Practitioner
It’s no secret these are unprecedented, trying times. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with seeming no end in sight, we know families across Allen County and surrounding communities are dealing with a whole host of challenges – uncertainty, anxiety and additional stress, just to name a few.
Even before the pandemic started, those of us working in mental health were keenly aware of the challenges impacting the emotional and psychological well-being of adults and youth in our community. In normal times, things like job insecurity, school stress and unstable family situations will have an emotional toll.
But with COVID-19, adults and children alike are dealing with new realities, and new stresses. The economic impact of the pandemic has resulted in job losses, financial and food insecurities for many.
And for our youth, who thrive on routines and normalcy, there are many unknowns. School this fall will not be what they are used to. The uncertainty of virtual or hybrid schools, plus wearing masks, social distancing and worrying about getting sick can be scary for youth and adults alike.
At Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth (SAFY) Lima Behavioral Health Center, we have been honored to strengthen families and our communities by offering community mental health services. As we specialize in trauma-based interventions for all ages, it is our goal to help youth and adults address mental health challenges so they can have hope, heal and thrive. Our staff clinical psychiatrist and our entire team are committed to addressing the mental health challenges happening right here in Lima and surrounding communities.
There are concrete things parents and families can do at home to promote emotional well-being for the whole family, and signs to look for to know if a family member needs additional emotional support.
- Make self-care a priority for the whole family. These days, it can be hard to escape from stress. Making sure you and your family have healthy routines, like getting enough sleep, making time to exercise, and eating healthy foods. Making time for fun, healthy distractions is more important than ever.
- Know the signs of depression and anxiety, and where to go for help. Watch carefully for changes in behavior in yourself and your family members. Sleeping too much, not sleeping enough, overeating, loss of appetite, strong feelings of anger, sadness or frustration can be signs that you or a family member is struggling. Sometimes people become more withdrawn and quieter instead of acting out their feelings. Changes in behavior can alert you that something is going on. Don’t be afraid to ask your loved one how they are doing – sometimes people are just waiting to be asked!
- For older kids, talk to them about suicidal thoughts and what to do. Sometimes adults worry that if they talk about suicide with their teens, it might actually make them think about dying. There is no evidence that supports this belief – in fact, many times our youth are relieved when we ask if they have thoughts of self-harm or wanting to die. If your child talks of wanting to die or is involved in any kind of self-harm, it is important to take this seriously and seek professional health immediately. Our community has two hotlines that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: in a crisis you can call 800-567-HOPE (4673) or text 741 741.
- Look out for youth in your community. Schools are a major referral source for identifying youth in need of mental health and counseling services. With many schools being held virtually or not in-person 100 percent of the time, it means we all need to step up and look out for our young friends and neighbors. This is the time to strengthen those neighborly connections. Use your best social distancing skills as you move about your daily routine. Say hello to your neighbors as you walk in your neighborhoods. Check in with the neighbors in your apartment building as you see them in the hallway or the laundry room. Ask the open-ended question – “How are you doing in these COVID times?” Empathizing with others during this difficult time can also help your own well-being. We are not alone!
If you or someone in your family is in need of mental health services, our professionals at SAFY Lima Behavioral Health are here to help. We offer a variety of counseling and therapy services, including telehealth, for adults and children of all ages. Additionally, our Youth Drop-In Center continues to distribute meals as well as socially-distant programming for youth ages 12-17. To learn more, contact us at 419-222-1527 or visit https://safy.org/ohio/lima-behavioral-health/.
Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth (SAFY) is a child and family nonprofit preserving families and securing futures services that help families and children heal, have hope, and thrive through a model of care that includes therapeutic foster care, adoption, family preservation, behavioral health and supports for older youth. Learn more at www.SAFY.org.