Give more weight to children’s mental health in school mask debate (Your letters)


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My sincere thanks to your editors for thinking of our children and recognizing the urgency to end these draconian mask requirements in schools (“As NY Ends Mask Requirements for Businesses, Schools Deserve Equal Urgency,” February 13, 2022). In October 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a “National Child Mental Health Emergency.”

This pandemic has taken a heavy toll on our children. Between increasing mental health problems in children and young adults over the last decade, the emotional toll of a stressful and difficult educational environment due to the current Covid-19 protocols, and adversity at home due to financial strains due to pandemic closures that left many unemployed, our children are in a downward spiral. Add to this school closures that have been challenging not only for students but teachers as well, isolation at a crucial time for social and emotional development, extreme social distancing and strict mask requirements once schools reopen, and you have a recipe for disaster . Unfortunately, the last two years have proven that.

Suicide rates, antidepressant prescriptions, and anti-anxiety medication prescriptions have skyrocketed since the start of this pandemic. Despite being the group least at risk of serious illness and death, our children have borne the brunt of the emotional and mental impact of this pandemic. Before the vaccine was available to children, people were concerned about their ability to pass Covid-19 to their teachers, as most children are asymptomatic by the time they become infected. There was also concern that children are carriers and could infect vulnerable adults at home. When the vaccine became available and many children were vaccinated, many families thought that the time would come when our children would finally have some semblance of normality—but that didn’t happen. And even as our society strengthens its immunity, develops better vaccines and medical treatments, increases our resistance to Covid-19 variants, and moves towards less stringent Covid-19 mandates and policies – such as B. Mask guidelines in public – our children are still being held to strict guidelines and are not making any progress towards normalcy in our schools.

Additionally, there is limited access to mental health resources, particularly in schools, leaving children struggling with anxiety caused by the pandemic on an island alongside those already dealing with organic mental health issues condition. They are left alone with these issues as many do not feel comfortable confiding in their parents. The stigma still attached to mental health issues certainly doesn’t help in an already dire situation. Fortunately, several school districts took advantage of the $5.5 million mental health resource offered by the county. But unfortunately not all. The pressure this puts on teachers and school counselors is unfair. They are already overworked and in many cases underpaid. Asking them to also take on the role of psychological counselor, which requires years of additional specialized training, is unthinkable.

I believe if more attention were paid to the difference in the number of children and young adults who have died from Covid-19 compared to those who have died by suicide in recent years, our society would face the crisis of mental health Health more conscious younger generation is currently facing. There are many I sympathize with who have faced terrible ordeal either through their own experience of Covid-19 or through the death of a loved one. There are also parents who are grappling with their own nightmare as they watch their children go on an emotional and psychological downward spiral due to the effects of this pandemic. There are no easy answers here, but there may be options.

For parents and teachers who remain concerned about potentially being infected and would rather remain in masks indefinitely, perhaps they can wear N-95 or KN-95 masks, which not only prevent, but prevent, the spread that they get infected infected. For those of us who are concerned about the development of mental health problems in our children or the lasting effects that the loss of a child through suicide would have, we should be allowed to offer our children some semblance of normalcy, especially those who suffer from anxiety and depression. There is a happy medium here and every family should have the right to do what is best for their child. If you’re concerned about infection, have your child wear an N-95 or KN-95. If you have an already infected child (even vaccinated ones in some cases) and are less concerned about getting infected, then give those children (especially those who are already struggling mentally and emotionally) the freedom to be a child again.

It is no longer time for us to start rethinking our current Covid-19 policies in our school systems and start moving towards normalcy again. Our children will face challenges throughout their lives as adults. These should be her happiest years, not the most stressful. Unfortunately for some these were the last years of their lives.

Rebekah Shiroff



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