Story at a glance
- The pandemic has been tough for adults and children alike.
- Dr. Phil McGraw is concerned about how lack of predictability will affect children going forward.
- He and Rep. Grace F. Napolitano and Rep. John Katko are putting on a caucus event regarding mental health in children and what solutions they think need to be prioritized.
Last year, Dr. Phil McGraw, who goes by Dr. Phil, wrote an opinion for Changing America about mental health in children and how parents could provide support. Nearly one year later, we catch up with Dr. Phil and find out more about his upcoming event to promote mental health.
In his opinion, Dr. Phil discussed his concern about children learning on Zoom with no personal contact, the overflow of information from the internet and the relentless news cycle. This week, he tells Changing America his concerns and fears have really come to pass and are even worse than what he had feared.
“The impact on the children has been and is continuing to be I think devastating educationally and developmentally in terms of social, emotional development and we’re seeing such devastating spikes in anxiety and depression loneliness,” says Dr. Phil.
Now that much of the U.S. is beginning to open back up again, some concerns are that people and children may have anxiety around that process. “We do have a high level of uncertainty, a high level of intimidation where people have been in such a small world for so long of a period of time that they’ve lost the confidence in their ability to do things that they took for granted before,” says Dr. Phil.
For many children, they’ve had to go through a tough year of learning from home, away from teachers and friends. This could have a long term effect on them socially and mentally. “Predictability is such a stabilizing force in their life,” Dr. Phil tells Changing America. “And those children that can predict their world and predict their life are so much better developmentally academically emotionally than those children that don’t have that.”
Access to mental health is inequitable across the U.S. Not only are communities of color underserved, so are rural communities who are more spread out. More than half of counties in the U.S. do not have practicing psychiatrists registered, according to a 2018 report from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center. From the report, a subset of practitioners are children and adolescent psychiatrists, and nearly 10,000 of them are practicing in 828 counties, which is 26.3 percent of all counties. This suggests that people of all ages are underserved in various parts of the country.
Another issue is that there is a social stigma against speaking about mental health problems. “Look this is a natural reaction to a global situation, the whole world economy has been affected,” says Dr. Phil. “Don’t shame yourself, don’t guilt yourself and recognize that a whole lot of people feel the way you do than people don’t feel the way you do.” Second, he recommends giving your thoughts and concerns a voice. Speak with a trusted family member or friend, or seek out local support groups in your community.
If you are intimidated about going back out into the world, find others who empathize with you and can help you slowly take steps towards a goal. Don’t start by going to a concert, says Dr. Phil. Start by taking small steps like inviting a friend over to hang out in the garden or go to the park. Then slowly step it up each time, and if need be, take it back a notch if you get overwhelmed. He calls this process successive approximations, where each successive step more closely approximates regular functioning social situations.
To discuss these mental health issues and solutions, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano and Rep. John Katko will join Dr. Phil and other experts like doctors Luis Garcia and Irma Elisheva Diaz in an event titled “Mental Health Caucus to Hold Virtual Discussion with TV Host Dr. Phil McGraw: Children’s Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and the Pandemic.”
Something needs to be done to increase access to mental health and part of that begins with education in schools, says Dr. Phil. Mental health should be part of the curriculum and we need to increase access, he continues. “Our hope is to raise visibility on the importance of finding solutions for these mental health challenges which have risen. They’ve always been there but the pandemic and quarantine have just really increased the need.” This event will be held tonight at 7:00pm ET / 4:00pm PT and you can access it when it live streams through Rep. Napolitano’s and Dr. Phil’s Facebook pages.
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