Mental Health Awareness is a topic that is so important this year, more than any other year in recent memory. With the pandemic in its second year, many families have been living in isolation, or with a risk for a potentially life-threatening illness to themselves or to family members. Stress levels have never been higher on such a global scale since World War II. At least, back then, people could still be together, commiserate, support one another, etc. Now people are torn away from each other, families and jobs are threatened, and kids are really feeling the stress.
Over the past decade, I have seen more and more teens and children with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, sometimes even requiring medical treatment or intervention. It is now even worse after a year of multiple stresses with missed socializing and events. There have been graduations, birthdays, and all kinds of other celebrations canceled or postponed, scaled down or just glazed over. Children, and especially teens, need to have these events recognized to mark their way through school and life. Sometimes these events are rights of passage, such as a graduation, senior prom, or quinceanera. This past year children saw their athletic or other teams dismantled and banned from participating or performing. Children in their preteen and teen years should be spreading their wings, exploring independently of their immediate family to learn critical life skills. They are supposed to be learning the hard knocks and resilience of dealing with school, bullying, successes and failures, etc. At the same time they should also be establishing connection, community, and peer interaction. We are going to see years of repercussions from this pandemic in our communities and especially in our children.
Are you concerned about your child or teen? Here are some tips to look for that may signify depression:
-Significant changes in mood: overly quiet, unresponsive, expressionless face, or overly agitated, unable to concentrate or focus, overly forgetful.
-Changes in sleep: requiring too little or too much sleep compared to normal.
-Changes in eating patterns: overeating, gaining excessive weight, or undereating, never hungry.
-Loss of interest or pleasure in things that used to be big interests for them.
-Over exaggerated responses to small changes.
Some of these are normal changes in adolescence or “normal” during the pandemic, but having several of these symptoms together may indicate a deeper problem. If concerned, seek professional help without delay. Luckily many mental health services seem to be really conducive to telehealth visits, keeping time commitments and accessibility somewhat easier than in the past. And, of course, that means less environmental exposure for family members to those outside their family unit or pod.
As areas open up and loosen restrictions, we hope to see more opportunities for kids and families to have outlets for reengaging in school activities, social gatherings, and reestablishing the activities so important for kids outlets away from the core family. This is a good time to watch for problems that could be impacting their health and well-being long term.
At PIPH we have multiple modalities to help kids struggling with their mental health. We offer HeartMath, Transcendental Meditation, yoga and more. Much of it is centered on a healthy lifestyle. What you can do is start at home:
– Strive for healthy nutrition with lots of vegetables and fruits as mainstays of your family’s nutrition, not just a “side” after thought. Nutrition and gut health with phytonutrients, micronutrients, and fiber for our good bacteria is important in maintaining our normal positive neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
– Get into and maintain healthy and regular sleep patterns. Get up with the sun or set an alarm. Get to bed on time without staying up for movies, YouTube, video games and the like.
– Exercise! 30 min of moderate vigorous exercise 5 days a week is AS GOOD AS PROZAC to reduce depression – and no pills or negative side effects!
– Stress reduction and mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. There are good apps that help you such as Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace.
– Self-care like warm epsom salt baths, some lavender essential oil for stress and anxiety, etc.
Seek help from your healthcare provider for any concerns and further assistance. At PIPH, we have natural products, such as herbs and teas that can be really helpful in balancing your emotions and moods. Come see us to help find a way through these challenging times with loving and compassionate, caring providers.