Child Psychiatrist Offers New COVID Support VT Workshop

Join our newest workshop, Parenting to Promote Health and Wellness in Children and Youth, Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. Register here.

Being a parent is hard. Being a parent during a global pandemic is really hard. 

Cath Burns knows this, because she’s a parent herself — two teenagers. She’s witnessed their struggle directly. She’s also a child psychiatrist with a Ph.D. and a private practice in Essex. As clinical supervisor for COVID Support VT and quality director for Vermont Care Partners, she’s witnessing how parents all across the Green Mountain state are struggling to help their kids navigate growing up in a global pandemic. 

Burns is offering an interactive workshop and discussion group for parents to learn about supports and strategies that promote children’s mental health and wellness. An informal presentation will be followed by group discussion and peer-to-peer brainstorming. 

“If their kids are having a hard time, parents often think it’s their fault. That’s not necessarily true, but when your kid is struggling you can’t help but take it personally,” says Burns. “This workshop is an opportunity for people to come together to share without judgment and find practical guidance and tips about what they can do. It will be a safe space for us to problem-solve together without feeling as if we’re inadequate or somehow failing as parents.”

Youth Mental Health Crisis

Before the pandemic, mental health concerns had already been rising among children and teens. Covid and its associated restrictions exacerbated an upward trend that shows no signs of slowing. In December, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a new advisory highlighting “the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis.” This follows a declaration in October of a national emergency in children’s mental health by three professional organizations focused on pediatric health. 

“Even without Covid, kids have a lot going on. Social media and access to smart devices has itself led to increased isolation. Add to that world issues, climate change, international conflict – our kids witness all of this. Then layer a global pandemic over all of that,” says Burns. 

“Our kids are swimming in the soup of all that right when they’re supposed to be figuring out who they are and what they’re about. They haven’t been able to practice a lot of critical skills that develop during childhood and adolescence.” 

In Vermont as in other parts of the country, the strains on youth are showing up as long waits in emergency rooms for mental healthcare, and sharp rises in suicidal thinking and attempts. Mental health professionals are in high demand, leaving kids in need waiting weeks or months to see a therapist. “If you’re going to wait for a therapist, it’s going to wait a long time,” says Burns. That means kids need alternatives within their homes, schools and communities that can support them and keep them safe in the meantime.

“Part of why I thought this workshop would be helpful now is to remind parents that there are lot of things they can do for themselves and for their kids that could really make a difference in their kids’ mental health,” Burns says. For example, she says we might need to diversify who we’re calling in for help. “Think creatively about who’s in your network. Who are the people you can count on? If everybody in your family is sick, who do you call? You might need to expand the circle of people you can call. Our friends, pastors, teachers, school counselors, and other important people in kids’ lives can make a huge difference in terms of helping us support them as they navigate these times. 

Join the workshop to learn other tips and strategies for helping kids cope, survive, and thrive with resilience in the face of hardship and unprecedented difficulty. 

Learn More and Find Resources

Join the free virtual workshop with child psychiatrist Cath Burns, Ph.D., “Parenting to Promote Health and Wellness in Children and Youth,” on Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. Register here.

Find mental health resources for youth in your community with Vermont Care Partners’ guide to designated agencies throughout Vermont.  

Read “U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis Further Exposed by COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Learn more about the declaration of a national emergency in children’s mental health

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