BUFFALO, N.Y. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and professionals are stressing the need to seek out services if your children are struggling through missing school and fear of the unknown associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
2 On Your Side spoke with Kristy D'Angelo, Vice President of Behavioral Services for Gateway Longview, an agency serving kids and teens ages 3-21. D'Angelo said children who are grieving the loss of their school years, graduations and sports seasons could turn into behavioral challenges down the road.
Although she says that identifying mental health challenges in children in 'normal' times is challenging enough, there are some warning signs that parents can watch for at home.
- Expressing more fear or anxiety
- Acting agitated or more tired
- Becoming more disconnected than the circumstances are causing
- Acting out more than their normal their baseline
D'Angelo also says there are some things families can do at home to help, including:
- Establish routines for the home school day to provide structure
- Being an active listener
- Normalize their feelings so they know that it's okay to feel how they're feeling
"My favorite thing to say is, I'm a parent, I've got two kids, is 'just tell me more about that,'" D'Angelo said. "'Looks like you're having a bad day, tell me more about that.' That just helps them, there's no expectations around what they can say. They can just say anything, then you can listen and validate their feelings and let them know that it's okay to feel that way. This is stressful."
From there, if families need to turn to professional services for help, many are still operating as telemental health services to allow for social distancing. Gateway-Longview, for example, is seeing more families than ever thanks to the video calls.
"Just as you and I are talking, this is what a therapy session would look like," D'Angelo explained over a Zoom interview. "I have to award and applaud my staff who literally on the switch of a flip stopped face-to-face and started tele-health services. We've seen an increase in attendance if you can believe it, because families are engaged with this type of video conferencing to provide services."
If you or your children are in need of help, D'Angelo suggests the following resources:
- Gateway-Longview's Behavioral Health Clinic: 716-783-3221 or www.gateway-longview.org/bhc
- Crisis Services Hotline: 716-834-3131
- Your primary care doctor's office