Even before the coronavirus hit, depression and anxiety were on the rise
in children ages 6 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control
& Prevention (CDC).
Kids’ social, emotional and mental well-being has been impacted by
the pandemic. From missing out on being in the classroom to canceled birthday
parties and milestone events, COVID-19 is affecting children and young
people directly and indirectly. According to the CDC, trauma faced at
this developmental stage can continue to affect children across their lifespan.
Dr. Christopher Trojanovich, a BCH internal medicine and wellness physician, talked with Denver Ch.
7 News recently about how the COVID-19 pandemic is requiring parents and
caregivers to seek mental health care for their children for depression,
anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Watch the Ch. 7 segment here.
Read on for a full transcription of Dr. Trojanovich’s conversation
with Denver 7 anchor/reporter Nicole Brady.
Ch. 7: Are you seeing anxiety in kids over not being in school?
Dr. Trojanovich: Kids have lost their sense of normality and that creates anxiety. The
sense of calm and a schedule that you had at home, has been disrupted.
A very important thing is to put some sort of schedule back in kids’
lives and find a beginning, middle and end to their day. Make sure there
is a purpose for that day, however you set that up. Even with remote learning,
the schedule has been thrown off.
Ch. 7: Not having some of those physical activities and outings, does that lead
to some mental health struggles for kids?
Dr. Trojanovich: I think it does. The pandemic has affected both physical health and mental
health. For good mental health, you need to have good physical health.
Part of the goal from a parent’s standpoint is making sure their
kids are physically active and getting up and going.
We are seeing kids gain weight during this process, just as we’re
seeing in many adults. It’s imperative to figure out how to keep
your kid active. Activity also lowers anxiety and all forms of stress.
It’s really part of the solution, making sure your kids are as active
Ch. 7: How much is depression/anxiety/isolation (for kids) coming from their parents?
Dr. Trojanovich: I think the pandemic puts parents in a unique position, with them now
being frontline workers for their children’s mental health and physical
health. If the parents aren’t doing OK, then it’s hard for
them to take care of their kids. We’re seeing more domestic violence;
kids are seeing more violence; there’s more food insecurity. As
parents struggle, their kids are going to struggle with them.
Part of the solution is making sure adults and families have resources
and that will trickle down in ways to their kids.
Really important is depression in kids. Depression creates isolation, and
it’s easy to be isolated right now. From a parent’s standpoint,
if your kid is dealing with any level of depression, focus on getting
them going and not let them be isolated as much as they want to be.
Click here for tips on building mental health resilience from BCH’s
Dr. Valerie Lipitz
Ch.7: What are the signs of some other mental health concerns in kids?
Dr. Trojanovich: Now is a nice, unique opportunity to talk to your children. You have to
be active, you have to stop and say, “The world is really tough
right now; this is impacting me; this is impacting you. Can you tell me
how (COVID-19) is impacting you?” And just see where that goes.
Our young children, our adolescents and our young adults are all going
through very different things. They are losing celebrations like birthdays,
graduations and all those fun milestones. Plus, there is the social isolation
of not being in school.
I think you must go to each child and figure out how this is affecting
them individually. Then come up with a plan. Your 5-year-old is going
to be very different than your 12 or 13-year-old.
Ch. 7: Is there an age that is too young for talking about COVID-19? What if
your kids are 7 or 8, what about an age like that?
Dr. Trojanovich: The CDC has a wonderful website for how parents can talk about COVID-19
– broken down (into age groups). For Young Childhood, which is 0-5,
food scarcity and food insecurity are big issues in that very developmental
stage. But (those kids) can still be scared by the change in routine and
watching everything around them.
I think 7 and 8-year-olds are probably missing school more than most of
the other groups. They are going to be suffering, in many ways. I think
you just should stop and ask them, “How is this affecting you?”
And then you come up with solutions.
Click here for the CDC’s COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit by age group
- Early childhood (0-5y), childhood (6-12y), adolescence (13-17y) and
young adulthood (18-24y).
Ch. 7: What is the first step for a parent (worried about their child)? Who do
you go to for help?
Dr. Trojanovich: I think the first thing as a parent is trying to figure out what the problem
is and then being open and listening. The kids’ social networks
are important right now. While I don’t like my kids playing too
many video games, the interaction of them talking with their friends is
minimizing the damage that COVID is doing to them.
School counselors are doing a ton. Every school has come up with a plan
trying to figure out which kids are at higher risk, because they are not
seeing them in person and they are going to miss the child abuse, they
are going to miss a lot of these things. School staff really tried to
figure out: What do we do with food insecurity? With our high-risk kids?
With people who speak different languages, different ethnic groups? Really
just all the areas of diversity that makes this even more difficult.
Ch. 7: At what point do you go looking for more professional help for your children,
Dr. Trojanovich: In the last couple of months, I’ve talked to more social workers
and child psychologists than I have in a long time. People are reaching
out to them. Families individually are just going on the internet and
finding resources; school counselors are helping with that. Primary care
doctors - family practice doctors and pediatricians - are seeing a lot
more people coming into their offices saying, “I’m depressed,
or I’m worried about my child.” It’s being spread out
across the spectrum.
The first place I would go (as a parent) is your counselor at your school
or your primary care provider - either your family practice doctor or
Ch. 7: Is there a risk for waiting for things to get more normalized before helping
your kids? Is it wrong to assume things will just go back to normal?
Dr. Trojanovich: I think there’s a lot of underlying damage that has already happened
and it’s going to take us a long time to get out from underneath
that. Waiting beyond today to talk to your children and figure out how
they feel and what kind of suffering they’ve already gone through,
is waiting too long. When things do go back to normal, it’s going
to be a new normal. We need to plan for all stages for the transition
from where we’re at now to that new normal.
As parents, you are frontline workers in the health and well-being, both
mental and physical, for your children. It requires an active process.
Additional Mental Health Resources
- Along with inpatient and outpatient services, BCH’s Integrated Behavioral
Health team (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) are available on-site in
all BCH primary care clinics, making early intervention and access to
treatment easier for patients who may need support for issues such as
depression and anxiety. Learn more here (https://www.bch.org/Latest-News/2020/September/Behavioral-Health-Specialists-Offer-Support-in-B.aspx)
CDC’s tips on talking with your children about coronavirus.
The Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook, created by The Wellness Society, contains a wealth of resources for managing
anxiety, finding reliable news sources, building resilience, expressing
gratitude, beginning an exercise program and much more.
myStrength: At BCH, we partner with myStrength, an online digital resource
and mobile app to promote mental health and well-being. To sign up, go
to mystrength.com. The access code is
myStrength now offers additional mental wellness support for COVID-19,
- Strategies to manage heightened stress
- Tips for parenting during challenging times
- Ideas to manage social isolation
- Other tools and information for emotional support