Mental Health and COVID-19
Strategies to assist during times of uncertainty
The purpose of this information is to highlight how stress and anxiety in adults, children, and teens may experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Exposure to natural disasters can cause fear and anxiety among youth (Weems, Russell, Neill, Berman, & Scott, 2016). Disruption in a child’s normal routine can create stress and anxiety (Quinn et al., 2016). Youth lack the maturity to manage natural disasters. The following is for information's sake only. In case of an emergency, contact 911 or your family physician. Anyone in need of assistance for food, rent, or bills dial 211 or call COVID-19 Community Economic Relief Fund 1-866-211-9966. For the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Mental Health topics during COVID-19
Fear is normal during this time
- Fear and anxiety are part of the normal response to this situation. Many things can cause fear and one of those is misinformation and rumors. Get Facts to minimize fears.
- It is normal for children to ask questions. It is important to be as honest as possible with them with what is best for their age
How to reduce COVID-19 Anxiety
- Limit watching news and social media.
- Control what you can control.
- Get rest.
- Deep breathing.
- Exercise and go outside.
- Share compassion stories. Avoid oversharing negative stories.
- Over watching distressing information can add to the fear.
- Eliminate stigma. Stigma can add to the fear.
- Discrimination and fear associated with the Chinese population because the virus started there. This can be harmful to the group.
- The use of language is powerful to minimize stigma. Do not attribute COVID-19 to an ethnicity or geography. It affected people and communities globally. Separate COVID-19 from the person you are describing. Use “a person has COVID-19” instead of saying “a COVID-19 case” or “COVID-19 family”.
- Do not use terms like victims or suspected cases. Theses phrases add to anxiety. Use messages that evoke compassion, kindness, and empathy. Share messages about recovery or loved ones supporting others or communities supporting others.
Possible signs of anxiety or stress in children
- Understand that children may show anxiety in different levels being home and the routine changed.
- Males report higher levels of psychosomatic symptoms such as aches and pains (Quinn et al., 2016).
- Females report higher levels of feeling upset, afraid, or sad (Quinn et al., 2016).
Irregular sleep patterns
Laying around in the dark
Attention and concentration difficulty
Avoiding previously enjoyed activities
Unexplained body aches
Use of alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, drugs
Fear of being away from parents
Inability to relax
Non-suicidal self-harm (Quinn et al., 2016)
Things to consider when talking to children about COVID-19
- Children are smart; they can tell something has changed.
- Remain calm and assuring.
- Listen and talk.
- Avoid language that leads to blaming and spreading stigma.
- Pay attention to what children hear and see on TV, radio, and online.
- Provide honest and accurate information.
- Teach children how to reduce spreading germs.
Understanding stress and anxiety and self-care
- Stress and anxiety can affect you and your loved ones.
- Everyone responds to stress differently.
- People with mental health conditions and substance abuse issues may respond differently with stress.
- Stress can result in varied eating habits.
- Stress can result in increased tobacco, alcohol, or other substances.
- Stress can result in varied sleep patterns.
- Take a break from listening or reading about the coronavirus constantly. Schedule your updates. Constantly hearing about the pandemic can increase stress.
- Rest, create routines, exercise, eat regularly, take deep breaths, move around especially outside.
- Make sure to unwind and relax.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use.
- Talk or communicate with people you trust about your feelings and concerns.
- Questions about job security is normal. The appropriate response is find the answer.
Support your child
- Create routines at home. Include times for playing and times for learning.
- Talk honestly with your child or teen using language they understand. Do not use jargon.
- Let your child know they are safe. Teach children coping skills such as deep breathing, taking walks, counting, drinking water, or talking to others when they feel stressed.
- It is normal for children to want or need privacy. It is not O.K. for children to be isolated from everyone for long periods.
- It is normal for teens to move away from childhood likes. It is not O.K. if they do not replace that with a teenage like.
- It is normal for teenager to want privacy when talking or texting friends. It is not normal when this occurs all of the time and children will not share topics of conversations.
- Children should not have passwords on Social Media accounts, emails, or any other communication that parents do not know.
- Limit children’s exposure to news including social media.
- Create routines.
- Relaxation training.
- Self-help books.
- Teach positive self-talk such as, “I can do this.”
- Be a role model by maintaining normal eating routines, normal sleep routines, normal exercise routines, and avoid drinking alcohol, drugs, and e-cigarettes.
- Play is essential for child development (Quinn et al., 2016).
- 211 (2020). COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.211.org/services/covid19
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2020). Critical updates on COVID-19. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Talking with children about Coronavirus Disease 2019: Messages for parents, school staff, and others working with children. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Manage anxiety & stress. [Web log post]. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html
- McCrimmon, K. (2020). Coronavirus anxiety: Why the outbreak feeds worries and five simple ways to reduce coronavirus anxiety. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.uchealth.org/today/coronavirus-anxiety-tips-for-reducing-worries/
- Milligan, A. (2018, December 27). How to help someone with anxiety. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2018/12/how-to-help-someone-with-anxiety/
- National Council for Behavioral Health (2020). Resources and tools for addressing coronavirus (COVID-19) [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/resources-and-tools-for-addressing-coronavirus-covid-19/#public
- Perez, D. (2020, March 2). The role of MHFA in catastrophic events: Lessons learned in Puerto Rico [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/external/2020/03/the-role-of-mhfa-in-catastrophic-events-lessons-learned-in-puerto-rico/
- Terada, Y. (2020, March 5). Simple metacognitive strategies to help anxious learners succeed: Anxiety and learning go hand in hand, but research suggests that simple activities focused on self-talk and metacognitive reflection can create calmer, more focused learning. Edutopia. [The research is in]. Retrieved from https://edut.to/3a3AGlx
- Quinn, M., Gillooly, D., Kelly, S., Kolassa, J., Davis, E., & Jankowski, S. (2016). Evaluation of identified stressors in children and adolescents after Super Storm Sandy. Pediatric Nursing, 42(5), 235–241. Retrieved from www.pediatricnursing.net/
- Weems, C. F., Russell, J. D., Neill, E. L., Berman, S. L., & Scott, B. G. (2016). Existential anxiety among adolescents exposed to disaster: Linkages among level of exposure, PTSD, and depression symptoms*. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 29(5), 466–473. doi: 10.1002/jts.22128