When we think of mental health issues related to the pandemic, it's easy to conjure images of financial stress and concerns about keeping elderly and immune-suppressed family members safe.
You may not even consider children at all, yet new research published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, shows that kids are some of the most affected.
Unfortunately, the research also shows that adequate care for children experiencing mental health issues is being delayed due to the severity and complexity of reported conditions, extended wait times and high out-of-pocket costs for families.
Additionally, due to a shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists, long waiting lists have led to "clinician burnout" that is set to create further impacts, particularly in regional areas.
So, what can you do if your child is experiencing mental health concerns? Well talking to your manager or HR department may be the key to immediate assistance through workplace employee assistance programs (EAPs).
Provided free of charge to employees, these services offer expert counselling to parents and guidance on the best course of action for their children, including advice on referral options for under 10s and short-term counselling for adolescents.
These services can act as a vital initial port of call while they wait for specialist psychiatrist or psychologist appointments.
EAPs can also provide counselling support for parents, helping them to not only care for their children but themselves.
This is an important step, as most parents don't know what to do when their child experiences mental health issues and want to get them professional assistance, as well as advice on what they themselves can do.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and this is especially true with mental health issues.
Counsellors can help parents develop strategies to support their children while they get professional treatment.
This gives parents the confidence that they are doing the right thing, which can alleviate their own stress and feelings of helplessness.
Parents looking for support should speak to their manager or HR team and inquire whether the business offers an EAP service.
It's up to the individual whether they want to disclose their situation to their business, and all calls, meetings and other support are completely confidential.
However, I always recommend starting an open conversation that will allow your company to support you through other means such as flexible work hours, reducing or changing workloads and periodic check-ins.
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