‘It’s very challenging’: COVID-19 pandemic raises challenges for children’s mental health

Published: Sep. 19, 2021 at 6:06 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC reports an increase in children seeking help for mental health concerns.

“The pandemic has absolutely exacerbated the underlying mental health issues that individuals may be experiencing,” said Jenah Cason, the Executive Director for the Federation of Families of South Carolina.

In 2020, children ages 5 to 11 sought help from emergency departments for mental health concerns at an increase of 24%.

Children ages 12 to 17 experienced a surge in mental health visits by 31%.

Cason says pandemic-related life changes, such as school closures and isolation, continue to negatively affect children’s mental health.

“Trying to shift back and forth between the various demands—school, work, home life, has been very challenging,” said Cason.

Cheryl Baker, a Midlands mom that struggled with her child’s mental health conditions, now connects other families with the professional help they need.

Baker says that for a while, she didn’t know her son was having trouble coping with everyday life. She stresses the importance of keeping open lines of communication with children, so they feel comfortable coming to trusted adults with their concerns.

Thanks to professional treatment, her son now leads a successful and happy life.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what would have happened because it’s very challenging,” said Baker. “He’s one of those success stories.”

If your child expresses mental health distress, experts say you should listen to your child and validate their feelings.

“Step outside of our perspective,” said Cason. “They’re just children. Don’t minimize their experiences.”

You can help support your child’s mental health during COVID-19 by:

  • Checking in regularly to ask how they’re feeling
  • Let them know it’s okay to have feelings and validate their emotions
  • Allow them to talk about their feelings so they can learn to process their emotions
  • Give them opportunities to ask for help when they need it
  • Help them focus on what they can control
  • Remind them that life will eventually get back to normal

If you’re not sure how to respond to your child, experts suggest seeking professional help. Cason says there are local organizations, like the Federation of Families, that work to connect families with the help they need.

For more information about the Federation or to seek help, visit

Other resources to find therapy for your child:

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