ChildSavers organizes seminar to address the challenges of the mental health pandemic

ChildSavers organizes seminar to address the challenges of the mental health pandemic

The Rev. Marvin Gilliam of Mount Carmel Baptist Church said he has been quarantined with his three children whose ages range from two to six years old. Children have been tenacious during the pandemic and have effectively managed their frustrations, said Gilliam, a ChildSavers community board member. Panelists also discussed interactions and time with their children since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Many of them have been in quarantine with their children since last March.  “Their vulnerability with us when something is wrong has been just incredible,” Gilliam said. 

The first seminar took place April 22. Four panelists shared activities they have done with their children during the pandemic, such as picnics and learning how to ride bikes. More than 60 people attended the event over Zoom and the event was live-streamed on Facebook Live. Caregivers were allowed to ask questions throughout.  Virtual town hall with VDH to be held May 4 at 7 p.m.

Dr. Danny TK Avula, a panelist and the director of the Richmond City and Henrico County health departments, discussed the importance of vaccinations for caregivers and parents so they can resume “normalcy.”  In addition to the work ChildSavers does with local schools, they also provide support for parents and caregivers. The organization is offering seminars to help caregivers plan for school reopening as well as other activities that involve interaction with others. 

Panelists encouraged caretakers to look at the pandemic through their child’s perspective.  “It’s helping adults look at the child’s perspective and helping adults affirm the good jobs that they’ve seen kids do, helping do some unlearning of what we may have done wrong in the transition and really hitting a reset and then looking for a new normal for each family,” said Bob Nickles, program manager for school-based mental health services at ChildSavers.  In the initial months of the pandemic, 14% of parents said their children’s behavioral health worsened, according to a June 2020 survey in the journal Pediatrics. During that same time, 27% of parents reported worsening mental health for themselves. Children’s mental health-related visits to the emergency rooms increased from April 2020 to October 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

“The social aspect is such a key part of the developmental process that we see in the educational system for our young people,” Gilliam said. “I definitely believe that that relational piece is going to be something that our young people, while resilient, we’ll see some impacts from that as well.”  Children have struggled with loneliness and a lack of social interaction, which is needed for mental development, Gilliam said. 

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