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Conaway: NJ Must Do Everything We Can to Support Mental Health of Children During and After COVID-19 Pandemic

With this year’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day taking place in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, M.D. (D-Burlington) released the following statement on the importance of mental health support for young people both during and after the crisis:

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on every single person experiencing this crisis. That includes the youngest among us, whose daily lives were drastically changed practically overnight.

“Children are largely cut off from their peers right now while school is held remotely and in-person interactions are restricted in order to slow the spread of the virus. The usual activities that entertain and shape these young minds, such as sports, school clubs and playdates, are no longer available to them in the same way they once were.

“Remote learning itself can be quite challenging for adolescents who already struggle with their schoolwork and can no longer receive the same kind of specialized assistance they once did. Low-income students without access to reliable technology are also facing additional barriers to academic success that can cause additional stress.

“Many of the children who regularly go online are being exposed to a never-ending barrage of bad news that can either scare or completely desensitize them to this worldwide crisis. Even children who are insulated from the news are not immune to the stress of this pandemic as they pick up on their parents’ fear and worry.

“This is to say nothing of the children who may be facing food insecurity due to their parents’ unemployment, or those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19.

“It’s imperative that we do not ignore the mental health impact of this pandemic on our children – both during and after the crisis ends. That’s why I have sponsored legislation (A-970) that would require schools to conduct depression screening to help identify any students who may be at risk for depression. This bill would help ensure that no student falls through the cracks and children struggling with their mental health get the support they need.

 “In the meantime, I encourage parents to talk to your children about what’s going on and let them know they’re not alone. If your child is experiencing mental health issues, consult a medical professional to learn more about what resources are available.”