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How to talk to your kids about their mental health and managing stress during the pandemic

File image of a child.
Posted at 9:58 AM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 19:30:56-04

CLEVELAND — Thursday is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day and officials are urging parents to talk to their kids about their mental health as COVID-19 takes a toll on all of us.

LifeAct is a nonprofit organization in Chagrin Falls that is dedicated to recognizing early signs of depression in children and young adults and intervening in their lives to get them help.

Eugenia Kirkland is on the board of directors for LifeAct. She said just like adults, children’s mental health is suffering during this pandemic.

“Probably more-so during this pandemic because they don’t understand,” she said. “Our young people are internalizing their fears.”

Internalization can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

She said the best thing that a parent can do is just ask their kids how they’re feeling, and really listen to their answer.

“Sometimes, as adults, we are sitting there with our kids and we are having a conversation, but we are cooking dinner, or we are on the phone, or we are watching T.V., or we are doing something else and they really have something to say and we say we are listening but we aren’t hearing them,” said Kirkland.

She said LifeAct is concerned that the pandemic will create a spike in depressed thoughts or actions in children.

They cited a 2018 CDC report that stated suicide is the leading cause of death, after accidents, for ages 10-25. In Cleveland, 18.6% of Cleveland students have attempted suicide, which is more than double the national average of 7.4%.

“At the end of the day, we know that our children can be quite impulsive. We want to never let a moment of despair become a tragedy,” said Kirkland. “If my child is depressed or moody, I need to be certain that there are no firearms in the house, no prescription drugs or dangerous items, because that one impulsive moment can become a tragedy.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, signs of depression in children can be:

• Irritability, anger, or being “on edge”
• Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness
• Withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities as well as from friends and family
• Increased sensitivity to rejection or criticism
• Changes in appetite (either increased or decreased)
• Changes in sleep (sleeplessness or too much sleep)
• Crying or temper tantrums
• Difficulty concentrating and focusing
• Fatigue (tiredness) and low energy
• Physical complaints (such as stomach aches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment
• Reduced ability to function during activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
• Thoughts or talk of death or suicide

If you feel like your child may be exhibiting these signs you can call:

  • LifeAct: (216) 464-3471
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK)

Click here for your one-stop resource guide

Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.