Using Creativity to Address Youth Mental Health Awareness Month: May 1 – 31, 2021

by: Shelancia Daniel, M.Ed., Executive Director of Creativity Shell

Many would agree, the COVID pandemic was a surreal experience. Within a matter of weeks, the world as we knew it was different. Adjusting to the new normal was a struggle for both introverts and extroverts alike. When one side agreed on A, the other was adamant to agree on B. One of the hardest struggles was the battle between in-person and remote learning. Many parents who opted for in-person learning had children that needed or wanted to be in school for particular reasons. Some in-person learners needed things like social interactions, structure, educational and social services. Others had the money and were able to send their children to private schools that were able to create their own rules in order to offer more learning options to the students in their care.

Some remote learners liked the structure because their children were comfortable in a remote learning session and had the resources to do so efficiently. Other remote learners didn’t have a choice in regard to their child being in school or not. If the school their child attended did not offer viable options; there was little the parent or parents could do to send their child to school. 

(It is very easy for some to say that schools are not daycares; but as a mother of three children, I would honestly be lying if I didn’t say that even though I teach other people’s children during the day; I look forward to Monday mornings because my kids are going to be gone for the day.)

By the time some schools were ready to open, the battle between in-person and remote learning was still strong but it didn’t become as fierce as the battle for children to wear a mask at school or not. Some parents didn’t want their children wearing facemasks, others would only attend if the children were wearing facemasks. The children had to do as they were told with information coming from all sides about when and where if any, they were supposed to have their masks on and when/where they were not. 

Some children were not comfortable wearing facemasks, others were happy to wear 3-4 at the same time. Imagine the guilt one must feel when your parents are telling you to do something, and society is telling you differently? This can be an awful feeling for a child who has parents adamant about masking and social distancing then goes outside and no one else is following the same rules. This scenario would be the same for a child whose parents refuse to wear a face mask yet goes out and other friends and families are happily wearing their masks.   

One of the things that helped to calm our battles was our agreement on helping children who were in need. It’s heartbreaking to think about the children who were stuck at home with no food or friendly faces. Many of those children relied on the benefits of schools for food and comfort and that option was also taken away from them.  

But after that brief moment of reconciliation and agreement where we all felt bad for children who were less fortunate, we began to fight again about whose fault it was that children were being hurt during this pandemic and that the topic of each of our major battles was the cause/solution to fix it. 

As we fought and continue to fight, did anyone stop and ask the children how they are doing? The world as they knew it changed drastically and we were all too busy fighting with each other to think about the long-term impact this will have on their mental health.

There were many children who were abused, injured, murdered during this pandemic.  There are also many children who might look and act like nothing is wrong when they are hurting deeply on the inside and are about to explode. It’s important to also note that exploiters like human traffickers can easily lure or groom either of these types of children by pretending to meet their needs and taking advantage of their situation. 

During Mental Health Awareness Month from May 1 – 31, 2021, it would be amazing if we can all rally together to support the mental health needs of our children. The Creativity Shell is partnering with Moda Fabrics to launch a fun national sewing project “Sew a Little Love Bug” where we are asking both adults and children to help sew love bugs to donate to all children in need. The Creativity Shell offers a daily list of activities to do with your children that will help to engage them in positive mental health dialogue and growth. To participate, details are available on the organization’s website

According to Mental Health America, even before COVID-19, the prevalence of mental illness among adults was increasing. In 2017-2018, 19% of adults experienced a mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million people over last year’s dataset. At this point, we can only think about the effect COVID had on developing brains, but the data will not be available for years to come. If there are positive steps, we can take today to address the mental health of our children, if human traffickers can meet the needs of our children (even though they are faking it); why can’t we really try and meet their needs as well?

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