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Over the course of the past 10 months, COVID-19 has increased suicide rates across the globe, thanks to the necessity to quarantine and self-isolate. Arguably, children continue to suffer the most when it comes to their mental health.
What we’ve learned is that over 80% of children with mental health difficulties say that COVID-19 has worsened their mental health, says Jane O’Rourke, a child, adolescent, and family psychotherapist. “Children are feeling increasingly lonely and anxious, with a third unable to access the support they need,” she told Daily Mail.
Unfortunately, the data that currently exists is troubling which coincides with a lack of hard research on how the pandemic is affecting children’s mental health. And why? Mostly because the coronavirus has been so fast-moving and these types of studies take time.
In a series of three studies conducted by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy out of the University of Minnesota, the toll on children’s mental health is directly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first study collected data on the daily moods from 645 hourly service workers with children 2 to 7 years old in large U.S. cities, from February 20-April 27. The frequency of daily negative moods among both parents and children increased significantly. Of all families, only 14% reported no hardships during the pandemic, while most had at least two. Throughout the lockdowns, the proportion reporting negative mood some of the time rose to 33% of days.
The second study looked at 1,011 U.S. parents in early June, revealing that 27% of parents believe their mental health worsened since March, while 14% said their children’s behavior problems increased.
The third study involved a self-reported survey involving 543 Chinese-American parents and children, from March 15 to May 31. Nearly half of respondents reported being targeted by COVID-related xenophobia, or prejudice against people from other countries.
One study out of China, which TIME Magazine shares, looked to a sample group of 2,330 schoolchildren for signs of emotional distress. After 34 days of quarantining, 22.6% reported depressive symptoms, while 18.9% were experiencing anxiety.
Here are three companies that have taken the initiative to stand up and speak out on mental health awareness as it involves our youth, which COVID-19 has only accelerated.
Created in early 2018 by suicide/abuse survivor Johnny Crowder, Cope Notes is a Tampa-based text messaging platform that provides daily mental health support to subscribers in nearly 100 countries around the world. And just in time for the holidays, I just subscribed myself, as I have my own traumatic demons I'm dealing with in therapy.
The service distributes randomly-timed text messages designed to interrupt negative thought patterns, training the brain to think in healthier patterns over time. Each text contains psychology facts, exercises, advice, or encouragement, and subscribers can reply as often as they’d like, using the thread as a digital journal rather than a real-time conversation.
In less than 3 years, Cope Notes has exchanged close to ½ million texts with thousands of users worldwide. Since the onset of COVID-19, Crowder has made strategic improvements to address the new mental health needs brought on by the pandemic, which caught the attention of ABC Action News.
“We added texts about social isolation, body image, financial stress, maintaining relationships, rebuilding a sense of purpose,” Crowder said. Their spring initiative, aptly named #copewithCOVID, encouraging people to give free quarantine-length gift subscriptions to friends or family members experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness due to the pandemic.
Crowder created Cope Notes on the heels of a troubled upbringing. He avoided therapy for years, opting instead to express himself through his metal band, Prison. His eventual diagnosis of OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, among other conditions, served as a wake-up call, as described in his TEDx Talk.
“I was hearing voices and seeing things, but I didn’t know what I was going through or where to turn for help,” Crowder revealed to NBC12 News in May of 2019.
So what makes Cope Notes worth exploring? Every text is written by peers with firsthand experience overcoming hardship, trauma, or loss before being reviewed by a panel of mental health professionals. “I want this to be that best first step towards a healthier brain, whether it’s for a stressed-out soccer mom or a college student in therapy," Crowder said.
Cope Notes offers individual, gift, and family subscriptions, with group options for businesses, schools, and other organizations. Their recent CARES-funded partnerships with local governments have accelerated the tool’s already rapid growth. One key to their success is their competitive pricing, with a full year of Cope Notes costing less than a single therapy session.
“Mental health applies to everyone with a brain, not just people like me who are living with a formal diagnosis,” Crowder said. “I’m not just doing this for your neighbor or your cousin… I’m doing this for you, too.”
If you or someone you know could benefit from daily support, visit copenotes.com to learn more and subscribe.
‘Kai's Sanctuary’: a mobile game for children’s mental health | Source: Brightlobe
Early into the March lockdown, data revealed that children’s mental health was worsening. At that time, Brightlobe, a London-based child health start-up, was piloting a game-based developmental assessment platform by Innovate UK, due out for release in 2021.
However, to address and alleviate then-recent data, it switched to a game-based solution, said Brightlobe CEO and founder Shivani Lamba.
Completely funded by governmental innovation agency, Innovate UK, ‘Kai’s Sanctuary’ is a free downloadable mobile game that teaches kids ages 4+ cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
In the game, players meet Kai, a healer who works in a futuristic sanctuary for sick or injured ‘guardians’--animals that are the protectors of children. By engaging in a gamified CBT, players learn to manage their emotions, from deep breathing exercises to yoga with a ‘guru sloth.’
According to Brightlobe, the game will continue to evolve over time, receiving new content updates, which include a series of AR reality adventures and improvements based on user feedback. Users can download ‘Kai’s Sanctuary’ for the iPad from the iOS App Store.
Mark Pellegrino (L) and Andrew Rossow (R)| Source: Horror Fuel
Pellegrino, who is most known for his lead role as ‘Lucifer’ in The CW series “Supernatural” and ‘Deputy Bill Standall’ in the Netflix Original Series ‘13 Reasons Why,’ has been outspoken on social media for many years about holding users accountable for their behavior online, specifically when it comes to spreading false narratives, libel, and defamation.
As a licensed Ohio attorney and adjunct cyberlaw professor at the University of Dayton School of Law, I am also a sexual assault survivor. Back in July, I reached out to Mark via Cameo to record a PSA for his globally trademarked #CYBERBYTE Movement, to which he agreed.
You can watch Pellegrino’s PSA against bullying here.
From there, we discovered we had similar upbringings and experiences with bullying, that it made sense to combine forces to create what is now known as The Guardian Project, which made its debut in US Weekly.
In an interview with Broadway World, Mark described The Guardian Project as a multi-tiered attack on the epidemic problems of public bullying and the spreading of libelous narratives on social media.
Both Mark and I officially launched our Kickstarter on October 27, which ran through the end of November, successfully funding the campaign at $20,000. Both Mark and I are now working on putting a pitch deck together to work with a producer to move this project forward as an eventual docuseries. In addition to exposing online bullying and libel, we want to offer victims social justice and peace of mind.
If we can be of assistance to you in helping direct you to the appropriate resources, or be an ear for you to vent to, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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