We all recognize that these have been particularly challenging times for many people, and this obviously includes children and adolescents. Depression and anxiety problems in young children and teenagers have definitively increased over the past several months. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics referred to it as a ‘national emergency in child and adolescent mental health’ (see: AAP, AACAP, CHA declare national emergency in children’s mental health | American Academy of Pediatrics (aappublications.org)
In my practice, I have been able to see firsthand the impact of mental health issues on my young patients’ ability to cope with stress as well as keep up with daily demands. Some have fallen behind their peers academically and are trying to catch up after several months of remote learning. Others find that certain friendships have dissolved due to months of quarantine and they are now faced with trying to rebuild these relationships or establish new ones. As children, they have faced many losses not only academically and socially, but also personally when it comes to dropped interests, missed opportunities and events, etc. Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that symptoms of anxiety and/or depression are now more prevalent. It’s been tough!
It is well known that depression and anxiety problems can affect one’s ability to function to the best of their abilities. Specifically, it can affect our ability to focus, learn and remember information, and keep up with more complex tasks that recruit executive functioning skills (such as planning, time management, organization, etc.). Mood problems also often directly impact students’ ability to stay motivated and complete schoolwork on time. If your child is struggling with these issues, the first step is to talk to your pediatrician to obtain an evaluation of their emotional well-being. It may also be beneficial to consider therapy to help develop coping skills to manage these emotions. If depression and anxiety problems significantly impact on a student’s ability to keep up with academic demands, reach out to the school’s social worker or counselor. These professionals will help determine whether neuropsychological testing is indicated to help determine access to educational services and accommodations. You can also reach us and we will do our best to answer questions and meet your needs.