On October 20, 2020, the CJA Deltas hosted a program titled “You Talk, We’ll Listen: A Virtual Town Hall Exploring the Challenges and Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 on Our Youth.” This event was a collaboration between the Program Planning, Membership Services, Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy and the Physical and Mental Health committees. Panelists included Joi Fisher-Griffin, an author, adoption advocate, and a school administrator; Dr. C. Alex Gray, principal of Martin Luther King Intermediate School located in Piscataway; Natasha Hemmings, CEO for the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey; and Lisa Perry, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and founder of Life Perspectives Counseling Services. CJA Member Denise Cliatt served as moderator.

The top mental health concerns identified by our panelists were ADHD, anxiety disorders, and depression. Concern was expressed for children who are accustomed to socializing with peers, but are now restricted due to COVID. They may also be feeling isolated in their virtual classrooms. Parents should pay attention and notice if their children are hyperactive, crying frequently, worrying, exhibiting excessive defiance/disobedience, and the like. They should also look for changes in behavior such as anger for no reason, fighting, excessive sleeping, differences in hygiene or appetite, shifts in grades, etc.

Recommendations to support children during COVID-19 were to have them engage in healthy habits such as physical exercise, eating healthy, and having consistency in routines at home. They should have a trusted adult to whom they can talk. Youth should also be encouraged to engage in self-care like journaling and meditation, yoga, and herbal therapy. The event was well-attended and informative. It was also helpful for educators, service providers, and those who work in the areas of social/emotional/mental health, as they had an opportunity to enter breakout rooms and further explore specific concerns in their respective fields.

Click here to listen to the full session.