EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Data from this year’s KIDS COUNT Data Book revealed a 26% jump in children aged 3 to 17 struggling with depression and anxiety between 2016 and 2020. But children weren’t alone in suffering mental health issues.
Dr. Tanuja Gandhi, a child psychiatrist at Bradley Hospital, tells 12 News it’s not shocking to hear the numbers reflected in the report.
“I think what I see, from the child’s perspective, there is no doubt that children struggle when parents are struggling as well,” Gandhi said.
According to Gandhi, anxiety and depression brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic is still an ongoing concern. Just last fall, a coalition of pediatric care groups even declared children’s mental health a public health crisis.
“It took a toll with virtual learning, transitions in education, and transition back to in person school, and there was a lot of adjustment expected of children,” she added.
An Aug. 2020 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed more adults were struggling with mental health issues in 2020 (nearly 2 in 5), compared to about 1 in 5 prior to the pandemic.
“Similarly with parents, they were playing the role of the teacher, a caretaker at home, doing their own work, and managing more responsibilities than you would expect a person to do in daily life,” Gandhi explained.
Gandhi said if you’re a parent and experiencing high levels of stress, sadness, or anxiety and it’s affecting your daily life, it’s time to think about seeking out professional help.
She also said that there are simple things parents can do at home to help ease anxiety.
“The most important thing is identifying what works for you, what time you have to invest in activities that are creative, that are enjoyable, and making time for yourself, and acknowledging that all of this can’t be super parents every day,” Gandhi said.
Carving out time for self-care is important for both kids and parents, according to Gandhi.
Before going back to school, Gandhi recommends families plan ahead to be prepared for potential COVID-19 requirements that will be in place.