The Behavioral Health Needs of Youth with Preexisting Psychiatric Disorders in the Aftermath of COVID-19

The Behavioral Health Needs of Youth with Preexisting Psychiatric Disorders in the Aftermath of COVID-19

Children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN), including but not limited to youth with psychiatric disorders, often require unique health care policy considerations to ensure their health and development needs in a post-COVID-19 era are met. A recent article published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care examined the influences that impact this group, emphasizing those factors that disproportionately affect children of color and their families, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.

In December 2021, a national youth mental health crisis was declared, highlighting the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the mental health of American youth. America’s mental health service system was already strained to support these children and adolescents due to a scarcity of psychiatrists and mental health workers.

The exposure to adverse childhood experiences, racial matters, political issues and environmental concerns across the country explain the chronic stressors and disruptive events that impacted youth behavioral health during this time. With in-person schooling, health care services and other activities abruptly ending, families were left needing to find new ways to support children and adolescents. These changes lead to an increase in emergency visits for suicide attempts and a rise in mental health problems such as sadness or hopelessness.

“Of the many children who lost a parent or caretaker to COVID-19—roughly one in 450 youth in the United States — reconnection with the community takes on pressing urgency. Productive grief and successful mourning may be particularly challenging for CYSHCN suffering a parent’s death,” said article coauthor Timothy Rice, MD.

Adding to this situation, CYSHCN require access to resources at different levels. Many preexisting structural and systemic health care inequities have made it difficult for CYSHCN youth to receive the required physical, emotional, and social support necessary for their development. The pandemic further intensified such health care disparities.

Through increasing outpatient services at different levels of care, there is a chance to improve the safety net that supports CYSHCN.

“Community-based care services may help to provide services for CYSHCN, who are most disadvantaged. As many families have been driven below the poverty line by the pandemic with risks of housing, food and health service shortages, community engagement and support are crucial,” said James Rodriguez, LCSW, PhD, coauthor of the article.

By establishing community engagement and support efforts such as access to teachers, coaches, mentors, and other supportive figures, there is an opportunity to find safe outlets for children to be helped.

The article “The Behavioral Health Needs of Youth With Preexisting Psychiatric Disorders in the Aftermath of COVID-19” was published in the March/April special edition of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care and can be accessed here.

Mar. 30, 2023

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