Joe French

Over the last eight months, many of us have taken on new roles and responsibilities at home and with the kids and young people in our lives.

We have become playmates, activity planners, algebra teachers and tutors. It has not been easy but we did it without hesitation; however, one role that may be the hardest and the one we avoid is counselor. It is important that we not only encourage our children academically and physically but also support them socially and emotionally.

How can each of us help someone who is experiencing anxiety and stress? The answer is simple:

  • Be attentive – check in with a child and ask, “How was your day?” “What did you learn today? “Tell me one thing special that happened today?”
  • Call or text someone to check in on how they are doing.
  • Listen. You do not have to have all the answers. Often, it helps to just be heard.

The short- and long-term effects of uncertainty, isolation and students being out of school for a long period of time are just starting to surface. Early research worldwide on effects related to COVID-19 indicate that children and adolescents are experiencing an increase in anxiety (37%), depression (31%) and suicidal ideation (6%). Overall, the increase in mental health issues in youth are mild (30.5%), moderate (19.3%) and severe (7.2%).

Developing strong, positive mental health does not happen overnight. The key to developing positive mental health is having someone in your life who will help guide you through the tough times and help you build up your resiliency skills which help you to bounce back during tough times.

Each of us has the ability to be that special someone in a young person’s life. In times of crisis, resiliency skills are vital.

There are five pillars of resiliency that each one of us can incorporate into our daily lives and teach others: self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships and purpose.

  • Self-awareness – conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires
  • Mindfulness – focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and sensations
  • Self-care – the practice of taking to action to preserve or improve one’s own health
  • Positive relationships – feeling recognized, supported and valued by the people in one’s life
  • Purpose – a sense that what you are doing is meaningful and worthwhile.

COVID-19 has challenged each of us to take a step back, be more patient and reconnect with important individuals in our lives. Nonetheless, many people are feeling isolated due to the inability to interact in person with family and friends; learning at home instead of at school; or the inability to participate in activities that they previously enjoyed.

If you notice your child is struggling, the best place to start is to ask, “Tell me more about that.”

Do your best to listen without judgment and to empathize with the person’s struggle.

If you find that the child’s struggle is beyond what you are capable of addressing, it may be necessary to reach out for professional help. Do not be intimidated by the stigma associated with mental health services. If a loved one had cancer, you would seek treatment. Mental services are no different. If there is a need for treatment, seek treatment.

If your child is in crisis, text 4HELP to 741741. Trained professionals can provide immediate intervention directly to the youth, or can guide you, as the concerned parent, through appropriate ways to respond to the crisis.

We all can play a part in helping our kids and youth rise above the current situation. Let’s take action, reach out to our children and remind our youth that today does not define tomorrow and we will get through this together.

C&A’s clinicians are experts in the field of child mental health and are ready to help our youth who are struggling with stress, anxiety, depression and substance use.

Our providers are available at many local public schools, in one of our four office locations or through telehealth. If your child or family needs help, call C&A at 330-433-6075. Together, we will provide our youth with hope, health and happiness.

Joe French is executive director of Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, a Canton nonprofit that provides mental health services for children and families.