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Your Healthy Family: Pandemic's toll on children's mental health

Posted at 8:36 AM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 08:36:51-05

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on children's mental health. The U.S. Surgeon General said suicide attempts were 51 percent higher for adolescent girls, and four percent higher for boys compared to the same time period two years ago.

"I see it every day. I have never had as many kids in counseling as we do now," Dr. R. Neal Siler said.

Dr. R. Neal Siler and Dr. Sharon Siler run a counseling center called The Healing Place in Virginia. They said what they’re hearing from kids who are struggling right now is alarming.

"Not only alone, but not seen, not heard, not welcome. Just here," Dr. R. Neal Siler said.

More than 140,000 kids in the U.S. have lost a parent or grandparent to COVID-19. Dr. R. Neal Siler said that grief can often lead to kids acting out.

"Those behaviors are a cry for help. They're saying something is going on in the inside, and I'm not able to articulate it and I want help with it. If we are not wise enough to recognize it, we will dismiss it and try to discipline it, and all we do is create an environment that keeps people in pain," he said.

Dr. Sharon Siler said being aware of how your kid is doing is crucial.

"We may be absent minded, may be confused. It's physical. We might have tightness in the chest, a lump in the throat," she said.

“Mental health is a valid form of care, and to ignore it is to run the risk of injury that's beyond repair," Dr. R. Neal Siler said.

If you or someone you love is having a tough time right now, don't be afraid to reach out for help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a hot line you can call for free, 24-7, at 1-800-662-HELP.