Not That Fatal This Time, But Kids’ Mental Health Needs Prioritization

When it looked like things were returning to normal after more than two and a half years of COVID, Louisiana supposedly had its sixth wave of the epidemic. The newly recorded data on the dashboard shows that the state witnessed almost 2,962 new cases over a day. However, according to Dr. Joe Kanter, this is a misleading figure since this doesn’t count the home tests. The good thing is this new COVID surge hasn’t caused the level of sickness among people like before. As per data, the positivity rate peaked at 13.6% from 13.3% over a week.

The current surge in COVID cases is, however, different from others. Unlike in previous waves, this time, there seems to be decoupling from its usual relationship with hospitalizations and deaths. Previously, infections had seen a tremendous mortality rate and hospital admissions. Kanter stated that when one looks at the current surge compared to others, one finds that there’s only a minor uptick in COVID fatalities while hospitalizations are fewer. Hence, it can be safe to say the infection rate has slowed down enough after reaching its tipping point, and there is more of a plateau effect than exponential viral progress.

Amidst this, a fascinating insight is an observation by the health leaders that suggest most hospitalization cases consist of either unvaccinated and unboosted people or those who have not completed their two doses of vaccines. It might not be surprising if you look at a recent survey by MyBioSource conducted on 3,442 people. According to them, 26% of the Louisiana public supported official COVID measures, and 41% showed their opposition. About 15% of Louisianans turned against the safety policies for the pandemic.

The state of local parishes (confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatality)

Louisiana’s Ouachita Parish recorded 69 new infections and one death, Lincoln Parish and Franklin Parish 13 new cases (no casualties), and Morehouse Parish 6 new cases. Catahoula Parish, Tensas Parish, and East Carroll Parish have seen only one or two additions. But Caldwell Parish didn’t have any recent occurrence.

The mental health of kids in Louisiana

When the American state witnessed an unprecedented rise in deaths due to Coronavirus, experts expressed concern for thousands of young Louisianans as they endured the grief of losing their loved ones and couldn’t access necessary services. Children’s Hospital New Orleans’s Dr. Julie Kaplow, in May 2022, warned that the nation is up against long psychological COVID as the traumatized and grieving kids face depression, suicidal tendencies, and guilt. However, they predicted a grimmer situation in Louisiana due to factors like poverty, inaccessibility of resources, and the events of hurricanes.

The situation for kids had already been deplorable in the state even before the pandemic hit. Louisiana stood almost last in the area of children’s wellbeing. The mental health leaders also noted that one could see the effect of untreated grief on them in the city of New Orleans. Families and the young generation of the place were not just coping with the pandemic but also dealing with the devastating effect of Hurricanes like Katrina and Ida.

Mental health resources for kids in Louisiana

Unfortunately, only one facility in Louisiana opened in New Orleans at the time of the pandemic for trauma and grief treatment. This facility also doesn’t have proper resources for kids with mental health. On the other side, the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on health and fatality rate has burdened the kids, requiring organizations to evaluate the status of their services in rural and low-income demographics.

Across the nation and even in Louisiana, about 1 million people have succumbed to the pandemic. Children have also been at risk as some lost at least one caregiver or a parent and others lost both parents. According to some sources, 3,371 children in Louisiana alone have tragically died. A committee called the COVID Collaborative, which includes health, education, and economic leaders, urged the political leaders to help these pandemic victims.

If seen closely through a December report, nearly 450 youngsters lost one of their caretakers to the pandemic, and 70% of 151,982 kids who went through this harrowing situation were 13 years or less. Most of these kids complain of headaches, stomach pain, and high heart rates. According to doctors, all these physical manifestations result from their grief.

According to grief experts, caregivers can be instrumental in helping kids manage their loss. They have to acknowledge their grief, be honest, listen, and find creative ways for them to find an outlet. Kids can have an emotional outburst in the form of anger. But helping them mingle with other children can prove beneficial. In the initial days of the pandemic, such programs didn’t happen, or only a few took place through virtual platforms.

On another note, the health leaders say these kids sometimes need only one hug to express their pain. So, the need is to recognize the situation; everyone must come together to help these kids cope with the pandemic-led stress.

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