CDC reports mental health for children under 18 has been forgotten

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 10:44 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 140,000 children under the age of 18 have lost a parent, custodial grandparent or grandparent caregiver due to a COVID-19 related death. This includes those who died directly from COVID and those who died during the pandemic because of a lack of quality healthcare or movement.

For the children who lost loved ones, the CDC believes that identifying and caring for children throughout their developmental stages is necessary part of the pandemic response.

“You’re thinking about the loss, but you’re not thinking about the lasting effects and impact this is going to have on people, because you’re focused on the physical illness, not the mental part,” Belinda Valenzuela, LPC-Associate at Brazos Valley Mental Health & Wellness, said.

The CDC reports that children’s mental health going unnoticed by many is the “hidden pandemic.” The organization also reported that Texas is one of the states with the highest number of children facing the loss of a loved one due to a COVID-19 related death. Valenzuela believes this starts to impact children at an early age.

“It might manifest into acting out or physical symptoms such as I have a tummy ache, I have a headache,” Valenzuela said. “They might become irritable, they might become withdrawn. A child who’s really little might regress in their potty training.”

Those behaviors can have long-term and lasting effects as those children mature into teenagers and adults. Those effects include lower self-esteem, substance abuse and suicide violence, according to the CDC.

Along with professional help, Valenzuela believes that you can help children and teens in your life who may be experiencing loss.

“If you show a child that it’s okay to talk about emotions, they’ll feel like it’s okay to talk about emotions,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela believes that journaling and art projects that help honor the loved ones lost can also be helpful. In addition, Valenzuela believes it’s important to remember that everyone processes grief differently and patience is key.

For more information about mental health counseling in the Brazos Valley, click here. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, The New York Life Foundation and The Child Mind Institute also has resources on how to care for grieving children.

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