It's nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dr. David Rube, the head of Psychiatry at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, joined us to talk about the mental health crisis emerging against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More depression, worsened underlying conditions, and heightened social anxiety are all impacts Dr. Rube relates to the necessary pandemic restrictions that have challenged our social programming and need for human connection.
Dr. Rube weighed in on parents' big questions:
- Is It Moodiness or Depression?
- Is a change in mood getting in the way of friendships, school, and daily life?
- Is your child experiencing headaches, fast heart palpitations, chills, numbness and tingling in extremities?
When mental health challenges get in the way of everyday function and start showing up in the body, that's where it becomes more problematic than garden variety moodiness. Keep an eye on changes in your child's behavior that don't return to normal over time.
What's Social Anxiety Exactly?
Social anxiety disorder is where one is inhibited from socializing, impacting the ability to make friends and to connect with peers in social situations. This may get in the way of calling a friend or FaceTiming a friend to study together, to get the latest homework done, or to talk about whatever it is that they want to talk about.
How Can I Help My Child Through This Difficult Time?
What's healthiest for kids is to have healthy parents. Take care of yourself, your relationships, avoid overindulgence in alcohol and drugs, move your body regularly, practice mindfulness, and model the behavior you want your kids to practice. Moderate your news intake to avoid anxiety related to what is happening in the world and encourage your kids to participate in family activities to reduce screen time.
How Do I Get My Withdrawn Child to Talk to Me?
Avoid “why” questions because they ask for more insight than our kids might have about their own feelings. Ask more about what is happening and follow up on our answers to keep the conversations going. Let them lead the conversation as much as possible.
What Do I Do if My Child Needs Help?
If your child needs help, reach out to community resources that support families with mental health challenges. Don’t hesitate to take your child to an emergency room like Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital or another one in the community. Talk to your pediatrician and ask for referrals. Check out mental health resources on the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital website and blog or the Department of Health.
Dr. Rube's most important message in the midst of this challenging time?
"It's okay to not be okay. I think that sometimes you want to avoid the stigma of mental health and what it means for individual children and adolescents and families. Please do not become a victim of that stigma. It's okay to not be okay; please get help if you need it. We will figure out ways to help get you to where you need to go."
During a time of physical distancing, help is still close at hand. We are stronger together, even as we navigate a time where so many of us are apart. At Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, we are committed to the wellness of our patients and their families. That commitment goes beyond the physical, because mental health is still part of health and we are here to support you.