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Massachusetts Prepares for Children's Mental Health Needs During Covid

Months into the pandemic, we know the Covid-19 virus doesn’t just pose a threat to our physical health: it has serious repercussions for our individual and collective mental health too. Given ACEs Connection members’ interest in trauma-informed initiatives that support the needs of children, the Massachusetts Childhood Trauma Task Force (CTTF) wants to share its recent report on Covid-19 and children’s mental health.

In its June report, the CTTF, led by the Office of the Child Advocate, examines the ways Covid-19 can affect the well-being of children, their families, and the staff who care for them. We know that children are living through stressful and even traumatic experiences that could have a significant, long-term impact on their mental health. Every day, children might be:

  • Grieving the loss of a family member
  • Experiencing a sudden increase in household stress and dysfunction
  • Struggling with the sudden change to remote learning
  • Dealing with feelings of loss, separation and isolation

Of note, while every child is impacted in some way by Covid-19, the CTTF is deeply conscious that some communities have been harder hit than others. Existing racial, ethnic, and income disparities are being further exacerbated by this pandemic, as the current trauma compounds the high levels of trauma many children and families in these communities were already experiencing.

The report, Protecting our Children’s Well-Being During Covid-19: Recommendations for Supporting Children and Families Who Have Experienced Trauma and Stress During the Pandemic, discusses:

  • Foundational research on post-disaster and mass trauma
  • The dangers posed by the digital divide
  • Capacity challenges of our behavioral health services
  • Effective local, state, and national initiatives on childhood trauma

Building upon these findings, the CTTF’s report outlines recommendations for Massachusetts to actively prepare for the surge of children’s behavioral and mental health needs. In particular, the CTTF urges the state to:

  • Build skills and capacity on the child-serving “front line” to address traumatic stress and behavioral health needs among children, families, and the staff that serve them.
  • Increase the availability of mental and behavioral health services and supports for students.
  • Build capacity to provide culturally competent services to children and their families in their own communities.

The Childhood Trauma Task Force was established in 2018 to determine how Massachusetts can better identify and provide services to children who have experienced trauma, with the goal of preventing future juvenile justice system involvement. In addition to studying and promoting trauma-informed approaches that support children’s well-being, the CTTF actively works with state and local child-serving agencies to help children recover from trauma and ultimately thrive as members of our society.

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