Amanda the OT
Culturally-Informed Mental Wellness Guidance for Families and Educators
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the mental wellness of children and adolescents. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly one in three young people reported feeling sad or hopeless during the pandemic. Several factors that have contributed to the childhood mental wellness crisis include:
Increased social isolation and loneliness
Disruption to school and social activities
Increased exposure to violence and trauma
Changes in family dynamics
The pandemic exacerbated disparities in mental wellness outcomes for children and adolescents from marginalized groups. Black and Hispanic youth are more likely to report feeling sad or hopeless and less likely to receive mental health care. However,
families and educators can do the following to support the mental well-being of children and adolescents during this challenging time:
**Talk to children about their feelings.** Creating a safe space for children to talk about their thoughts and feelings is essential. Let them know that you are there to listen and support them.
**Help children stay connected with friends and family.** Social connection is essential for mental wellness. Encourage children to keep in touch with friends and family through phone calls, video chat, or social media.
**Encourage children to get involved in activities they enjoy.** Participating in their desired activities, such as sports, arts, and music, can help children and adolescents cope with stress and anxiety.
**Ensure children get enough sleep.** Sleep is essential for mental wellness. So make sure children are getting enough sleep each night.
**Encourage children to eat a healthy diet.** Eating a healthy diet can help improve mood and energy levels.
**Limit screen time.** Too much screen time can be harmful to mental wellness. Encourage children to limit screen time to two hours per day.
**Get regular exercise.** Exercise is a great way to improve mental wellness. Encourage children to get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day.
**Seek professional help if needed.** If you are concerned about a child's mental wellness, it is crucial to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide you and the child with the support needed to decrease barriers and increase support collaboratively.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting the mental wellness of children and adolescents. What works for one child may not work for another. The most important thing is to be patient, understanding, and supportive. When supporting the mental wellness of children and adolescents from marginalized groups, consider the following:
**Be aware of the cultural factors that may impact a child's mental health.** For example, children from immigrant families may be experiencing stress due to the challenges of adapting to a new culture.
**Seek out culturally-competent mental health providers.** Not all mental health providers are trained to work with children and adolescents from marginalized groups. Therefore, finding a provider familiar with the cultural factors that may impact the child's mental health is essential.