The next in this series of the Grant Us Hope Podcast welcomes back Dr. Suzanne Sampang of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She joins host Travis Nipper to talk to us about the challenges of addressing mental health concerns amid access to school constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen to Episode 16

In this episode, Travis welcomes back Dr. Suzanne Sampang of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Since a year ago, there have been more mental health crisis calls amid individuals of all ages including adults as people try to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty that stems from the pandemic.  The CDC, specifically for adolescents ages 12-17, found that the proportion of visits to the emergency room that were mental health related increased 31% from March 2020 to October 2020 compared to those same months in 2019. (2:15)

Research that was published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that individuals aged 11- 21 coming to the emergency rooms for any reason came in with a higher rate of suicidal idealizations and suicide attempts for the first half of 2020 compared to those same months in 2019. The number of actual suicides has remained fixed (3:41)

Covid-19 doesn’t affect children physically for the most part, but the lockdown measures are really what is causing the biggest impact on kids. The protection against mental health problems in kids include the connection to school, family, and peers. Not having that has had a proportional effect on emotional problems, anxiety, depression etc. (4:28)

A year in, the concern is do we have a plan in place to recognize children who may be struggling. Schools, teachers, and school counselors are a big part of the recognition piece. Data reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped since the start of the pandemic. (6:50)

The lack of predictability and the lack of a set structure is what is difficult for a lot of kids and families. Some kids have done well in the virtual environment and the push to go in-person may make their emotional issues worse. We do want those who are the most vulnerable to be able to get back to school as fast as possible. (9:15)

When school goes back all in-person for kids, all the public safety measures (masking and social distancing) are going to be required in schools. There may be some students who have a hard time complying to those standards, so it is a good idea to give choices to those kids. (11:40)

The hope is that whatever the social, academic, or emotional delays occurred because of what has transpired in the past year can be made up. Children are wired for that catch-up, but only time will tell. There may be family ramifications, there may be grief and trauma issues, and, in the end, we really don’t know what will happen. (13:30)

Furthermore, parents should think about what the best configuration is so their child can thrive.  Parents should pay attention to their kids’ regular school routine to see if they are struggling with going back to their original school routine. It is also important to check on your kids and make time to have conversations with them. (14:50)


Dr. Suzanne Sampang – Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

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