Pandemic takes toll on children’s mental health, medical journal cites increase in child abuse calls

Burrell Behavioral Health holds event on children’s mental health
Published: May. 7, 2021 at 9:53 PM CDT|Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 10:24 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Stress, abuse, and poor mental health have been a few of the woes that have become familiar to many people in the past year.

In some cases, children have been hit just as hard.

Burrell Behavioral Health held a special event, “Burrell Remembers,” focusing on children’s mental health. A candlelight vigil was held Friday to reflect on those who have mental health issues and those who have been lost to mental health issues.

Friday marked National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, while the whole month of may is dedicated to mental health awareness.

Friday’s gathering came along with plenty of laughs and smiles, and shed a light on an issue that became all too familiar for many over the year.

“We’ve seen more people needing help with mental health concerns,” said Matt Lemmon with Burrell Behavioral Health. “We’ve seen more people, especially kids struggling with the changes coming about. And now we’re going to have more changes, because hopefully we’re starting to re-emerge and go back to a little bit more the way life used to be.”

Lemmon said it may have looked a little differently for every kid.

“Even if they haven’t shown severe mental illness, it’s been hard,” he said. “And it’s opportunities like this to come out and just put language, put play to mental health, really get kids thinking about it and expressing themselves.”

Mental health has been an issues on many minds throughout the year, but abuse also became a bit of a growing issue.

New research has revealed that national child abuse calls increased over the year. According to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the number of calls or texts to the national child abuse hotline ChildHelp rose by 13.75% from 2019 to 2020.

“When there’s more additional stress in the home it does put children at risk,” said Micki Lane with the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield. “Even when there wasn’t risk of child abuse or neglect prior. When you have adults in the home who are caregiving for youth and juveniles, and they suffer stress, sometimes it’s difficult to handle.”

But experts say abuse also took a a few different forms as well.

“While we have definitely, over the last 15 years, seen an increase of internet-facilitated abuse of children, we are seeing many more reports of that,” Lane said. “They’re being solicited online or they’re being sent material, child sexual abuse imagery, so images of a child being sexually abused.”

And while kids still work at home, abuse advocacy groups say it is important for parents to keep tabs on your child’s internet usage.

Both mental health experts and abuse advocacy groups say it is also important to look for physical signs of abuse, but also mental strains and changes in attitude.

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