June 3, 2022 – There is probably a small group of kids who get long Covid where you might say that there is some direct impact of the Covid virus on the brain, but that’s a pretty small group of kids. But overall, when we think about what Covid has done, it has really destroyed the infrastructure for kids with mental health problems. If you really think about it in a slightly deeper way, we’ve been advocating for mental health for kids for a long time. Families and schools are more aware of mental health issues, so you’ve now got this kind of perfect storm of increased awareness and increased advocacy, resulting in an increased need for care. And the structure for that care has fallen away over the past two years.  

CNN: Given those numbers, do you feel that the pandemic will shine some light on the mental health needs of kids that we wouldn’t have seen without this crisis?

Walkup: I think we would have seen an increased awakening either way because the advocacy efforts are there. We now have effective treatments for every major psychiatric disorder for kids, and the treatments are good. Once you have treatments, you can advocate effectively, right? So before the pandemic more and more kids were therefore coming for care, good care. But then when you strip away all of the support infrastructure (school, activities, etc.), those kids are going to become symptomatic much more quickly. Without that infrastructure, we’ve seen a dramatic, unexpected rise in pathology.

CNN: You also suggest the pandemic has exerted a higher impact on girls and the LGBT community. Any idea why that might be?

Walkup: When the pandemic hit, more kids who were untreated or poorly treated began to present for care. The prevalence of anxiety and depression for young females is greater than that for males, which may account for disproportionate treatment seeking. More girls have needed help that hasn’t been there in the last two years. 

In the LGBT community, those youngsters struggle. It’s hard to be different when you’re a young person. This group also experiences higher rates of bullying. Many feel they do not necessarily fit in even within their own families. So you would expect that those kids would really struggle during this period of time, and they have.


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