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Expert give tips to help youth mental health crisis

Surgeon general issued advisory this week
Posted at 7:30 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 19:30:44-05

NAPLES, Fla. — A warning by the United States surgeon general this week says kids are still feeling stress from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, surgeon general Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on youth mental health, saying the effect COVID-19 has had on our kids has been devastating.

“It’s almost similar to being in a war,” said Ahmed Eid, director of Hazelden Betty Ford of Naples. “The whole country is experiencing a whole level of stress not experienced before.”

That’s how Eid described what the global pandemic has done to our country’s collective mental health. And the effect has been particularly jarring to children.

“I would imagine for a young person, suddenly feeling the whole world is off balance can be very disturbing,” Eid said.

Although Hazelden Betty Ford specializes in addiction rehabilitation, the clinic also offers mental health services. Eid said kids today are still dealing with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

“Suddenly I’m in a situation where I can’t do anything,” Eid said. “That would upset the mental health and overall wellbeing of anyone. But for youth who are still developing and growing and trying to find a place in this world, that can be extremely detrimental.”

Dr. sara polley is an adolescent psychiatrist and the medical director of Hazelden Betty Ford’s national youth continuum. she said it’s not just COVID-19 that is weighing on kids’ minds, but also societal issues such as racism, violence, climate change and politics.

Polley advises parents to watch their children for signs of anxiety or depression.

“If you start to see changes in personality or friends group, changes in sleeping or eating,” Polley said. “Those are warning signs that your child might be struggling.”

For kids struggling with mental health, Polley suggest getting them involved in enjoyable social activities where they can have positive interactions with adults and peers.

“That has a huge benefit for young people and can combat some of the anxiety of depression and anxiety from the pandemic,” Polley said.

Both Eid and Polley say the first step to fixing mental health is acknowledging there’s a problem. Those experts say that, just like a physical injury, anxiety or depression can and should be treated by a doctor. They say there’s no shame in seeking help.