(NewsUSA) – Mental illness often goes unrecognized in young children, and especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to recognize signs that children are struggling. Distinguishing between normal childhood behaviors and behaviors that indicates a problem can be difficult, and parents should tune in to nonverbal cues and behaviors."Unlike adults who are able to verbalize their feelings, based on their stage of development, children may not be able to communicate how they are feeling; instead, they often do so through behaviors," explains Kamilah Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., a medical director at AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies, a national leader in Medicaid managed care.Ohio officials report that the COVID-19 pandemic in particular has impacted the mental health of the state’s children.In November 2021, officials at Dayton Children’s Hospital said they had seen an approximate 30 to 40 percent increase in mental health symptoms in children since the beginning of the pandemic, which has closed schools, separated children from their friends, and cost many children their parents’ jobs and even their parents’ or caregivers’ lives.Children who experience significant stressful life events on top of social barriers, such as unstable housing, financial insecurity, and unsafe neighborhoods, can be at additional risk for mental health problems.In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than one in five children living below the federal poverty level had a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder."It’s crucial to understand that mental illness in children is as important to attend to as a physical illness and must be treated," says Dr. Jackson."A first step is to recognize the warning signs."The National Institute of Mental Health identifies the following behaviors as prompts to further evaluation in children:
- Constant movement and difficulty sitting quietly (except when watching videos or playing videogames)
- Frequent tantrums or extreme irritability
- Complaints of stomach or headaches with no known medical cause
- Difficulty making friends or disinterested in playing with other children
- Sleeps too much or too little, complaints of frequent nightmares or seeming sleepy during the day
"Should parents see these warning signs, they should speak with their pediatrician, see a mental health specialist and consider joining a support group or otherwise connecting with other families," adds Dr. Jackson."It’s also a good idea to work closely with your child’s school to learn what programs can help them."AmeriHealth Caritas is among the nation’s leaders in health care solutions for those most in need, and currently operates in 12 states and the District of Columbia.AmeriHealth Caritas will expand to offer one of Ohio’s new Medicaid health plans, AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio, beginning in July 2022. AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio will help Ohioans get care, stay well and build healthy communities by addressing the acute and broader social factors that drive health outcomes. It will also partner with Ohio Medicaid’s new OhioRISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence) program, which will serve children and youth with the most complex behavioral health needs.For more information about AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio, visit amerihealthcaritasoh.com. For more information about OhioRISE, visit https://managedcare.medicaid.ohio.gov/managed-care/ohiorise.