McLean Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital mental health experts have teamed up with award-winning journalist Jeanne Blake to develop a new online program to address current and lingering mental health effects from the COVID-19 pandemic on children and adolescents.
The toolkit, which is available free of charge, uses real-life narratives from kids and parents and offers communication strategies for discussing mental health issues or concerns.
“The program, called The Pandemic and Kids’ Mental Health, is designed to help parents build kids’ resilience in the wake of disruptions and anxiety they’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic—and related problems that may arise in the future,” said Blake.
Blake is a mental health advocate with close connections to both hospitals, including serving as a board member for McLean from 2008 to 2020. She now serves as an honorary trustee for McLean.
As with any trauma, mental health experts say the effects of the pandemic will emerge in some children over time.
“We can’t predict which children will be impacted long term by the pandemic,” said Daniel P. Dickstein, MD, FAAP, chief of the Nancy and Richard Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at McLean. “It’s like shaking a bunch of soda cans. Some cans will burst, others won’t. That’s why it’s important that parents engage—and create opportunities for kids to talk.”
The program, available at WordsCanWork.com, was created by Blake Works, a Massachusetts-based leadership communications consulting firm founded by Blake. Paula K. Rauch, MD, founding director of the Marjorie E. Korff Parenting at a Challenging Time (PACT) Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, is the project’s adviser.
The Pandemic and Kids’ Mental Health is built around three sets of videos with preschoolers, elementary school age children, and adolescents, along with their parents. The participants movingly describe the challenges they face and strategies they’ve used to navigate the pandemic.
Dickstein and Rauch expand on these case studies and provide practical suggestions that every parent can apply during discussions with their children.