Infectious Disease

Highlighting coping methods can help young people at risk find their way through the COVID-19 pandemic

March 19, 2021

2 min read

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the daily stressors, coping and suicidal thoughts of psychiatric hospitalized adolescents, according to a presentation at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s annual conference.

“Suddenly, some of the things that children usually do to deal with stress may be restricted or no longer available to them. Hence, COVID-19 could have quite a dramatic impact on how children can access various skills that they would normally normally use on the face of stress ” Alexandra H. Bettis, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said during the presentation.

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In the current study, Bettis and colleagues attempted to shed light on the experiences of teenagers who were psychiatrically hospitalized during the pandemic, as well as to assess associations between COVID-19-specific stress and coping, daily functioning, and thoughts of suicide. They analyzed data from 107 people aged 11 to 18 who were admitted to the Bradley Hospital adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit between March 13, 2020 and July 19, 2020. A total of 66.4% of the participants were non-Hispanic, 53.2% were white, 13% were black or African American, 1.9% were Native Americans and Native Americans, 16.8% stated multiple races / ethnicities and 14% stated from other racial / ethnic backgrounds. Furthermore, 47.7% were women, 43.9% men, 5.6% were gender / gender contrary / gender specific, 1.9% were transgender men, and 0.9% preferred not to respond. The researchers rated the following experiences participants had prior to hospitalization: COVID-19-related emotions, such as feeling sad, lonely, bored, fearful, guilty, insecure, angry, or relaxed; COVID-19-related stressors, including a list of stressful events relevant to adolescents; COVID-19 response, such as B. Strategies for social engagement, tedious distraction, relaxation, and avoidance / separation; perceived coping effectiveness, such as the question, “How helpful have these coping strategies been in dealing with the effects of COVID-19?”; and functional changes, including the assessment of 12 areas that were classified as unchanged, improved or deteriorated. In addition, the researchers used the self-perceived flexible coping with the stress scale and the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire-Jr.

The results showed that COVID-19 affected the daily functioning of the participants. 44% reported negative effects, 6% reported positive effects, 4% reported positive and negative effects, and 46% reported no effects. The mean ratings of the emotions showed a general trend towards moderately to moderately high levels of negative emotions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, with loneliness and boredom being highest. The researchers found that distraction and detachment were significantly higher than relaxation and social engagement at moderate coping and stress scores. Social media or watching TV, sleeping or isolating from others, and wishing things were different were the most common coping strategies. The most common stressors were the inability to leave the house, being cut off from others, and worrying about someone taking care of COVID-19. Those who used withdrawal management to help manage the pandemic reported higher levels of suicidal ideation, and these people were more likely to feel that their coping strategies were ineffective.

“When we think of these children who are really prone to psychiatric problems, it is important that we help them identify engagement-oriented strategies for dealing with stress in the context of COVID-19,” Bettis said.

Reference:

Bettis A et al. Dealing with COVID-19: Identifying transdiagnostic and changeable risk and resilience factors in adolescents. Presented at: the annual conference of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America; 18.-19. March 2021 (virtual meeting).

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Annual meeting of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Annual meeting of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

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