Healthy Living: Pandemic's lasting impacts on mental health


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We are heading in the right direction when it comes to the pandemic, but for many of us, the lingering effects of the stress and fatigue will stick around.

As we close this chapter on the pandemic and transition to fully reopening in June, we are expecting to see a big boost in our collective mental health. But it's not uncommon to see some lingering stress - even in children.

Doctors say nearly 8 in 10 adults report that the pandemic is causing significant stress to their daily lives and, sadly, that impact is likely to last for some time.

With businesses fully reopening, more vaccinated people feeling comfortable enough to unmask, along with more social interactions with friends and family, it's the boost many people need to get back to feeling normal.

It's especially crucial for children who have been isolated for more than a year now. New numbers show just how much of an impact the pandemic has had on our children's mental health.

"Studies show that 1 in 4 youth is experiencing thoughts of suicide which is an increase from 1 in 10 prior to the pandemic. In King County the youth suicide rate has increased by 30 percent over the past year," said Dr. Jim Polo, Executive Medical Director for Regence.

Staggering and certainly unsettling numbers help stress the importance of opening the lines of communication between parents and their kids.

Dr. Polo says to talk to your children but most importantly to listen. He suggests asking how they're feeling and offering reassurance that everything will be okay.

Dr. Polo says to watch for key signs that their mental health might be deteriorating.

"Look for changes," he says. "Maybe they're sleeping more than average or less than before, or they're eating more or eating less. look for signs of withdrawal or moodiness and irritability."

The next step is contacting your child's doctor for advice on how to address those changes in behavior.

Resources for immediate mental health assistance:

Disaster Distress Helpline
Help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Washington Listens
Nonclinical support for people experiencing stress due to COVID-19


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