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Youth mental health diagnoses on the rise due to COVID-19

Pediatricians at the Children’s Clinic in Newport News say they are indeed prescribing more anti-depressants to their young patients.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam stressed the importance of getting children back to school, because of the impacts of remote learning on children's mental health.

"My fellow pediatricians say they are seeing increases in behavioral problems, mental health issues, and even increases in substance abuse among young patients. They are writing more prescriptions such as anti-depressants and stimulants," said Northam. 

Pediatricians at the Children’s Clinic in Newport News say they are indeed prescribing more anti-depressants.

“Anti-depressants? Heck yeah! I have a lot of kids coming in with new diagnoses of anxiety and depression," said Dr. Elizabeth Broderick. 

Dr. Broderick explained virtual learning is causing some anxiety for her patients.

“So my little ladies and gentlemen with ADHD are really struggling and I’m having to reluctantly raise the dose of their stimulant to try and help them. And I really hope once they are back in in-person school, I’m going to be able to drop the dose back down," said Broderick. 

Broderick is providing more coping skills for her young patients and their parents. 

“It’s okay to not be okay and to try and figure out, 'What’s in my tool kit right now to help myself and who can I call?'" said Broderick. 

Broderick said one way to reduce stress can come from simple breathing exercises.

“Let’s take our breath down from short shallow and upset to slightly more deep and slower. So we can then by slowing our breathing drops our heart rate and our blood pressure and stop our adrenal glands from kicking out the stress hormones so we can actually feel alright," explained Broderick. 

The Virginia Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have some tips on their websites, including the need to stay connected with friends in creative ways and to remember you’re not alone.