Could this be the next wave in the Pandemic?

Though the physical effects of COVID-19 have generally not been as severe for most children compared to adults, the mental health impacts of the pandemic are just as severe. And that has laid bare an ongoing epidemic in children’s mental health. That’s according to a panel of experts who recently participated in a U.S. News & World Report webinar on “Managing Children’s Mental Health: A Pediatric Hospital Imperative.”

The challenge is daunting: “How do we address this wave of children’s mental health in the context of the trauma that we’re all experiencing?” said Dr. Karin Price, chief of psychology at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, during the webinar, which was part of a U.S. News series on Pediatric Priorities: Improving Children’s Health in the COVID-19 Era.

The first portion of the session explored child abuse, trauma and so-called adverse childhood experiences and how such experiences can have lasting detrimental health effects well into adulthood. These include the traumas that cause children to feel unsafe or uncertain in their environments, ranging from abuse and neglect to violence or a family member’s mental illness or incarceration.

“The more adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, that children have,” the more stress hormones are released in the body, which can set the stage for various health conditions including cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety and other negative health outcomes.

But ACEs aren’t just one thing they can be defined in a few different ways. One is adverse colonial experiences which refers to how the negative impact of systemic oppression and historical trauma can be passed down from generation to generation.

Another way to look at them is as “adverse community environments,” which encompass issues like unstable housing or lack of access to health care, both of which “can really set our children up for negative or positive health impacts later.

These days, the acronym ACE may also refer to “adverse COVID-19 experiences.” The deaths, illness, economic and housing instability, and loss of the daily school routine have been especially hard for many children, providing the destabilizing trigger for a wide range of ACEs to arise in kids everywhere and society will likely be grappling with the after-effects for decades to come.

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