A startling new survey conducted by Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago estimates that 70,000 toddlers and children in the city are showing symptoms of mental health difficulties amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The survey was conducted as part of the “Voices of Child Health in Chicago” program at the hospital, with the survey finding that widespread social and emotional impacts of the pandemic are still being felt by children in the city.
“Supporting the mental and behavioral wellbeing of children and adolescents is critically important. As a pediatrician, I am concerned that children may continue to experience these health effects as the pandemic continues, and potentially even after the pandemic comes under better control,,” says Dr. Matthew Davis, Chair of the Department of Medicine at Lurie Children’s, said in a statement.
Approximately 48% of parents in the survey say they have spoken to their child’s pediatrician about mental or behavioral health concerns over the last year. Approximately 44% of parents said their young children had exhibited more physical or behavioral symptoms during the pandemic than they had previously, including tantrums, nightmares, clinginess and other symptoms that doctors say could point to mental health challenges.
According to a press release on the survey, the pandemic could also have other lasting impacts on children, including childhood obesity, as parents say their children are more likely to eat more than they did before the pandemic began, while getting less physical exercise.
The survey project was administered to Chicago parents, collected between Nov. 2020 and Feb. 2021. Approximately 1,505 Chicago parents from all 77 of the city’s community areas participated.
The hospital offered several tips for parents seeking assistance to help with their children’s mental well-being:
-Primary care physicians can discuss parents’ concerns and provide guidance, including potential screening or referral to specialists.
-School administrators or social workers, whom can inform parents about resources available through schools.
-Lurie Children’s Center for Childhood Resilience aims to foster mental resiliency in children.
-Parents can also encourage their children to practice self-care in increments throughout the day, including through taking walks, playing with pets or listening and dancing to music.