Food, gadgets not solution to children’s mental health in pandemic
Aside from the physical illness that COVID-19 has brought on humanity, the impact of this pandemic on a person’s mental health should not be ignored.
Depression, anxiety, withdrawal from social interaction (all the more exacerbated by social distancing and lockdowns), and worse, suicidal ideations are being experienced by a lot of people nowadays. A lack of emotional support system and acknowledgement from family members who themselves might be going through the same issues contribute to the uptrend in mental health issues.
The health protocols of physical distancing, online learning for kids, work-from-home setups for the grownups, losing a job, economic losses, and basically just being cooped up at home due to the lockdowns and limited mobility, all add up to stressors on one’s mental state.
Some can cope and handle the challenges of the pandemic, while others have difficulty adjusting to the challenges. The internet has become the outlet for such stressors, with kids (and some adults as well) spending most of their time online. Their precious gadgets have become a lifeline of sorts — their therapist and nanny, but also their source of stress as well.
I am quite bothered by this uptrend in mental health issues, most particularly among the young who do not have adequate coping skills yet in dealing with life-changing events such as a pandemic. Their lack of face-to-face interaction with kids their age, and not being able to play outside and develop friendships beyond Facebook, Instagram, Mobile Legend games, and the like, are all factors piling up and waiting for a Taal Volcano explosion of sorts in their life.
In my work, mothers bring their teenagers for consultation due to dizziness and headaches. What comes out of the interview are teens who stay up late, sleeping in the wee hours, fidgeting with their gadgets, and waking up dizzy and lightheaded due to lack of sleep. When their blood pressure is taken, it is on the low normal or even hypotensive. They have also become withdrawn. I advise the parents to limit screen time and engage the child in physical activity like dancing, jogging, biking, or even household chores. Anything that would make the child actually sweat and get them off the chair or bed and have them interact with the rest of the household.
I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I am a doctor for kids at a clinic. Health, as they say, is not only the absence of illness, but also the wellness and harmony of all aspects of an individual—physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and, in this pandemic, mental. As grownups, it is our duty to recognize if our children need more emotional support, and not just feed them with more food or gadgets.
PAMELA I. CLAVERIA, MD
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