man-holding-brain-illustration-against-260nw-1173801472.jpg

MENTAL HEALTH

 

EFFECT OF INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA ON CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH

Intergenerational trauma is defined as “a discrete form of trauma which occurs when traumatic effects are passed across generations without exposure to the original event” (Jensen et al., 2021). This encompasses a broad range of traumatic events which parents may have gone through including but not limited to: community violence, war, natural disasters, personal assault, gender-based violence, and domestic violence (Jensen et al., 2021). This kind of intergenerational trauma has vast and enduring effects on physical health and emotional well-being while also increasing the risk of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children (Jensen et al., 2021).

Although intergenerational trauma is applicable to a wide range of mental illnesses, PTSD is one of the most highly researched and well understood examples of the effects of intergenerational trauma on children. A study based in Rwanda found that the children of mothers who were exposed to genocide showed high rates of PTSD symptoms and that there was a positive correlation between severity of trauma experienced by mothers and rates of PTSD in their offspring (Jensen et al., 2021). Another study on Holocaust survivors showed that parental PTSD was associated with PTSD in their children and parental trauma correlated with depression in children (Jensen et al., 2021). Other studies that focused on deployed military parents showed that there was a high degree of children internalizing issues such as depression and poor socioemotional adjustment (Jensen et al., 2021). Another recent study also showed that there were three categories of PTSD symptoms that interfered with attentive and responsive parenting, thus impacting the childhood of these children (Jensen et al., 2021). Caregiver avoidance as a result of their PTSD, causes reduced participation in parent-child activities (Jensen et al., 2021). Emotional disturbances may blunt positive emotions so that the child does not ever receive positive affirmation (Jensen et al., 2021). Greater showings of anger, conflict and distress may interfere with expression of warmth and affection (Jensen et al., 2021).

 
young-depressed-female-character-sitting-260nw-1786766729.jpg

Other than PTSD, depression in caregivers has also been studied for its effect on children. Research shows that mothers with depression tend to be more irritable, less engaged, exhibit less warmth, and instigate fewer playful interactions with their children (Jensen et al., 2021). This affects the child’s ability to develop normal cognitive and language skills and to exercise self-regulation and social engagement with caregivers (Jensen et al., 2021). It is also important to consider that the presence of any mental illness, especially one with as much social stigma as depression, results in the children feeling shame and experiencing difficulties with peer interaction and making friends (Landstedt and Almquist, 2019).

 

As sympathetic social relationships are critical protective factors against mental health issues, the loneliness and weak peer networks caused by intergenerational trauma is a large risk factor for mental illness in these children (Landstedt and Almquist, 2019).

different-ethnicity-female-friends-hold-260nw-1918840193.jpg
 
metaphor-bipolar-disorder-mind-mental-260nw-1887010654_edited.jpg

Overall, intergenerational trauma and resulting mental illness in parents or caregivers have an immense effect on the mental health of their children. This is most commonly seen with PTSD and depression but is true for many other mental illnesses as well. It is critical that parents recognize symptoms of mental illness in themselves and obtain help from professional services such as those listed in this website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-mental-health-support. Hopefully, with earlier identification of mental health issues in caregivers, their children will suffer less in the future.

 
boy-shouts-covered-his-ears-260nw-772766326.jpg

THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying time for everyone but especially for children. With the new practice of online schooling, the accompanying social isolation, and the general fear of the uncertainties that arise from this whole situation, there are numerous new realities to which children have to get accustomed. All of these factors combine to have a huge impact on children’s mental health in a variety of ways.

 

Schools offer children a daily routine that helps to structure and guide their lives. This includes getting the opportunity to participate in regular extracurricular activities that often engage them in physical activity, regulate sleep cycles, and enable frequent social interactions with peers and teachers (Cost et al., 2021). These are all very important in protecting the mental health of children and adolescents (Cost et al., 2021). With online schooling, this routine is disturbed which results in a negative effect on mental health.

 

OVER TWO THIRDS OF CHILDREN ACROSS CANADA HAVE SHOWN A DETERIORATION IN MENTAL HEALTH THAT IS CORRELATED WITH STRESS FROM SOCIAL ISOLATION (COST ET AL., 2021).

coronavirus-outbreak-lockdown-school-closures-260nw-1704582541.jpg
 

70.2%

of children were between the ages of 6-18

66.1%

were between the ages of 2-5

Pre-school aged children were shown to be a lot less likely to have a deterioration in mental health (Cost et al., 2021).

 

This is indicative of the lack of in-person school education playing a role in the diminishing mental health of adolescents (Cost et al., 2021). The transition to online school also means the cancellation of a lot of milestone events or important school activities like graduation ceremonies, school trips, assemblies, and vacations (Cost et al., 2021). This seems to contribute to mental health issues during this time.

Parents play a large role in the mental health of their children as well. For example, the education level of parents, the living setting they have provided, their attentiveness to things like how much time their children are spending on technology, their method of reprimanding when a child makes a mistake and the parent's knowledge of child abuse are seriously associated with mental health (Yeasmin et al., 2020). These factors are further exacerbated during COVID-19 due to the child’s consistent exposure to their parent’s behavior and not getting other adult input through school or extracurricular environments (Yeasmin et al., 2020). Another thing to consider is that schools sometimes provide children a source of escape from difficult home environments. When children are forced to stay home throughout the day, they are more likely to bear witness to the spillover effects of familial violence, parental substance use disorders, financial distress, and general mental health concerns in parents/guardians (Samji et al., 2021).

There is also the additional stress of the uncertainty of the virus’ effects on people’s health during this time.

 
people-talking-psychologist-child-about-260nw-1556213753.jpg

A study showed that children between the ages of 3 and 6 exhibited greater symptoms of clinginess and a fear that family members will be infected (Singh et al., 2020).

 
children-education-concept-school-learning-260nw-149406659.jpg

On the other hand, older children were inattentive and routinely asked questions regarding the plight of COVID-19 (Singh et al., 2020). In general, all age groups exhibited serious psychological conditions of irritability, inattention and clinginess (Singh et al., 2020). Parental questionnaires also revealed that children felt uncertainty, fear and isolation during the pandemic and that these feelings manifested themselves through sleep disturbances, nightmares, poor appetite, agitation, lack of attentiveness and separation anxiety (Singh et al., 2020)

 
sad-teenager-girl-child-psychologists-260nw-588674936.jpg

Overall, as detailed above, there are numerous mental health issues caused by COVID-19 and the pandemic. The disturbances in their daily routine due to online schooling, the social isolation caused by physical distancing, and the general fear of the dangers and quandaries of the pandemic culminate to have serious implications on the mental wellbeing of children and adolescents. Nevertheless, there are some ways for parents and guardians to make this situation a bit more bearable for children. Things like creating a newly formulated routine for school days and weekends, setting up online play dates, and having open conversations regarding their feelings of distress can help alleviate some of the worry surrounding this situation. This article from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/parental-resources/index.html) lists some other resources for parents to use to ensure better social, emotional, and mental well-being for their children and to better cope with these unprecedented circumstances.