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Mental health during COVID-19: signs your child may be depressed

Posted at 10:00 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 22:00:35-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The pandemic has caused many of us to feel lonely this year. We're apart from our friends, sometimes family, and kids are separated from their classmates.

Licensed psychologist, Dr. Katherine Stone, Ph.D., tells LEX18 that parents should be on the lookout for specific red flags or warning signs of depression.

"Obviously if your child is talking about suicide or has a preoccupation of death, you need to talk to your pediatrician, mental health provider. You need to go right away. But for your average kid that's struggling, we see withdrawal, we see increase in sleep, we see a change in appetite, and just an overall irritability are some of the primary symptoms that we're seeing during this global pandemic."

Specifically, for teenagers, Dr. Stone explains how to spot depression versus "typical moodiness".

"If your child is so moody that they won't interact with you for a couple of days, or you see rage, you see more aggressive behavior, non-compliance, you say, 'no, you can't go out', they grab the keys and go, then you know it's time that you need to sit down and have a talk with them or reach out to a mental health professional."

Below is a list of things parents can try to improve their mental health.

  • limit/ filter negative news
  • stay active/ get outside
  • focus on helping others (i.e.: make cards for postal worker/ fire dept.)
  • remind kids that the pandemic will pass
  • give grace on classroom assignments and grades

"The switch to virtual learning for kids is an adjustment for everybody, so I just suggest parents ease up on the grades for goodness sakes," Dr. Susan Slade, MD., said. "However, if there is a real change in how a child is performing or how they're interested in school that would be a concern to try to develop more of an interest and try to understand what's happening there."

If you notice any of the below symptoms, it's recommended that you reach out to your child's pediatrician:

  • withdrawal
  • changes in sleep pattern
  • changes in appetite
  • helplessness
  • avoidance
  • loss of interest
  • increased irritability

You can also call a local hotline for help on determining next steps: 800-928-8000

You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline here: 800-273-8255

The American Psychological Association and the National Association of School Psychologists are also good resources for parents.