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
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK)