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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

Kids are experiencing severe COVID-19 anxiety, Delaware Mental Health Panel discusses

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Anxiety amongst kids and teens dramatically increased during the pandemic, and experts say it’s important for parents to know the signs. Schools are expected to reopen come fall, and mental health evaluation is going to be essential before and during students’ return.

The Delaware Children’s Department’s Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services hosted a mental health panel Friday in recognition of Mental Health Month.

Nemours Pediatric Psychologist Dr. Karen Wohlheiter says the ability to pick up on subtle cues of mental illness over Zoom and other virtual environments is difficult, so it is important for parents and guardians to pay attention.

“My number one recommendation is to check in. check in on your kids, ask how they’re doing and if they don’t give you much information, ask them a specific question. ‘How have you been sleeping?’ ‘What kind of things are you doing for fun these days?’ Those are great questions to ask to kind of gather more data,” Wohlheiter said.
Wohlheiter notes there are many signs of anxiety and depression in kids to look for - such as changing sleep patterns and lack of engagement in activities they previously enjoyed.

Ashlyn Darling is a youth advocate at the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services.

“It can be nearly impossible for some students to want to literally move 5 feet from their bed to their computer, leaving a lot of kids struggling silently behind their screens,” Darling said.
Youth Crisis Services Program Manager Malia Boone says several children are already having difficulty returning to normal life.

“We’re also seeing increases in social isolation," Boone said. "Even though things are starting to open back up and there may be more opportunities to reach out to friends and do things socially, we’re seeing kids that don’t want to even leave the house. It’s almost like they’ve been inside for a year and they don’t want to go back out.”

Others say kids are looking to adults, like parents and teachers -so it is important to be a model for them, and be honest about uncertainty. 

COVID-19 stressors over the past year resulted in a 24% increase in emergency room visits related to mental health in kids aged 5-11 and 31% for ages 12-17.