Newswise — Nearly 20% of adults — about 50 million American people — are experiencing a mental illness, and about one in five children are affected by a mental disorder each year. There are many types of mental illness, including mood, anxiety and personality disorders.
While mental disorders have been a major public health challenge for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased mental health concerns for both adults and children.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted mental health for people of all ages, but it has called special attention to the mental health needs and vulnerability of the pediatric population,” says John Campo, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Heightened awareness of the threat posed by mental disorders to the health and well-being of American children and adolescents is reflected in a recent communication from the U.S. surgeon general and the declaration of a national crisis in pediatric mental health by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association.
The severity of the conditions can range from mild to serious. In severe cases, there may be thoughts of suicide.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans under age 35, and it’s in the top 10 causes of death across the life span,” says Paul Nestadt, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We can prevent these deaths by treating depression and reducing access to lethal suicide methods, such as firearms.”
Nestadt says the general warning signs of suicide risk may include the symptoms of major depressive disorder: a change in usual activities, isolation, losing interest in people and activities that previously brought joy, new or increased use of drugs or alcohol, low energy or unintentional weight loss, negative self-talk and suicidal thoughts.
Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center experts agree that it’s important to focus on mental wellness. Here are some tips to boost your or your child’s mental well-being:
- Develop a routine. This can help motivate you or your child to feel more productive. Also be sure to schedule an activity every day that you or your child enjoys.
- Build social connections. Regularly visiting or enjoying outings with family members or friends can keep you or your child from feeling isolated.
- Maintain a good diet, exercise and sleep schedule. These will each boost your mood.
- If you or your child feels sad or lonely, share your feelings with people in your support network and encourage your kids to do the same either with you or with friends. Understand that you and they are not alone.
- Understand that some things are out of your control, but you can handle them when they arise.
If you experience signs of anxiety or depression, talk with your primary care practitioner or a mental health specialist. Parents should look out for signs that are out of the ordinary for their children, such as trouble with schoolwork, loss of interest in activities or changes in behavior, eating or sleeping. Talk with your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns.
Nestadt, Campo and experts below are available for interviews about how adults and children can deal with their emotions and cope with stress and anxiety.
Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., M.A. Child and Adolescent Psychologist, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Carol Vidal, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Andrea Young, Ph.D., M.A. Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is intended to raise awareness about mental and behavioral health and reduce the stigma regarding related health concerns.