United States – 03-02-2020 (PRDistribution.com) — Widespread disease can substantially raise anxiety in most vulnerable populations
NEWTOWN, CT March 2, 2020–The U.S. is experiencing a collective anxiety because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) threat, which is having a greater impact on young people than adults. “Children of all ages are psychologically susceptible when crises occur,” explains Bob Schmidt, LPC, trauma-informed therapist of Sandy Hook, Connecticut. In emergency situations, parents can lessen anxiety symptoms such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and depression by “promoting a sense of safety and calm, increased connectedness, and feelings of hope.”
Prevailing medical emergencies as COVID-19 can lead to similar mental health issues as other crises, such as mass shootings or natural disasters. Mental health professionals see a sizeable rise in anxiety among a number of children and young adults. Schmidt suggests, “Caregivers can help children cope better with the abrupt changes and instability in their lives by doing the following”:
•Communication: Encourage them to freely express their concerns, particularly after school and community events when the topic is discussed. Clarify misinformation from other sources. Respond to questions and frustrations with age-appropriate answers in addition to verbal and physical reassurance.
•Daily Routines: Follow typical family scheduling to foster stability. Make minor changes when necessary and provide calming activities before bedtime. •Connectedness: If school and community occasions are decreased/curtailed, remain in close touch with friends and other family members through phone calls and video chats. Keep discussions of the crisis to minimum.
•Joint Activities: Suggest entertainment that eliminates dwelling on the news, such as reading, watching favorite videos and lighthearted shows, and playing board games.
•Media Coverage: Curtail viewing news programs that might bring up the topic of Coronavirus when children are awake. Research shows that young children who watch the same news-clips 24-7 believe that each one is another event. “Above all,” concludes Schmidt, “be patient. Anxiety levels will remain high for considerable time, placing stress on the entire family. Seek help if symptoms worsen or are long-lasting.”
In addition to being a licensed professional counselor for several decades, Schmidt joins Newtown resident and mental health advocate Sharon L. Cohen as coauthors of Disaster Mental Health Community Planning: A Manual for Trauma-Informed Collaboration to be published in April by Routledge. In 2015, Schmidt received the Unsung Hero Award from the American Counseling ssociation for his professional work in the community. See www.disastermentalhealthplan.com for more information.
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