LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — According to a growing number of experts, the seven months of lockdowns, quarantine, and distance learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a growing toll on the emotional well-being of many children.
“Before the pandemic, a lot of my friends were doing well,” said Vallyk Pena, a social influencer for Artsace, who works in conjunction with the Victoria’s Voice Foundation.
But in recent months, the 16-year old who has thousands of followers on Instagram says he’s noticed a change. “Now, in the pandemic, they are like, by themselves and they have a mindset that they can only rely on themselves, and they go to these substances to rely on.”
Jackie Siegel, along with her husband David, CEO of Westgate Resorts, founded Victoria’s Voice after losing their daughter, Victoria, to opioid addiction 5-years ago. She says the isolation over the past several months has been especially difficult for children and teens, leading to re-addiction, new addiction, and overdoses.
“Just in Clark County alone,” said Jackie, the drug overdoses from fentanyl is up, from last I heard, 165%. That’s how bad this COVID-19 isolation lockdown is affecting our loved ones.”
According to David Siegel, the crisis is getting worse, and precious momentum from the recent fight against opioid addiction has been lost.
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“We were making progress,” David said. “The numbers were getting better each year. Overdoses were dropping, and then when all the COVID-19 is here, we are way up. We are at the highest we’ve ever been, so it’s going to require the most work that we’ve ever done.”
According to UNLV psychiatry professor, Dr. Lisa Durette, it’s not just teenagers. She says younger children are also affected by distance learning, as well as the additional stress of households where parents might be having a difficult time with unemployment and mounting financial hardship.
“You’ve taken away the kids’ structure. You’ve taken away their routine, and you’ve introduced additional vulnerabilities on the parent's part,” she said. “So, you’re seeing more clinginess. You’re seeing more difficult behaviors.
Ironically, Dr. Durette says that difficult behavior could likely continue after the pandemic in the way of children not wanting to return to school. “Time is our enemy in all this,” she said. “The longer kids are isolated, obviously, the problems just continue to escalate and snowball.”
The problem has now landed on the radar of the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities.
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According to its executive director, Nancy Brune, the Office of Suicide Prevention recently reported to her that 5 kids were lost to suicide in Nevada in a 15-day period. Brune says the Guinn Center will likely advise lawmakers for the need to provide additional funding going forward for new counselors to help Nevada’s youth cope with emotional issues caused by the pandemic.
The Clark County School District says, despite distance learning, school counselors are still available to talk with students. Parents or students can reach out to teachers and counselors online to arrange meetings. CCSD says it also has social workers available to do wellness checks to help children through this difficult time.
For more resources, visit the Victoria’s Voice Foundation website.
This website also provides links to social influencers who are available to reach out to children, set positive examples, and offer advice on dealing with isolation and addiction.