Kaiser Permanente mental health expert provides resources to help youth cope amid civil unrest

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — As the country continues to fight the spread of COVID-19 and the recent rise in protests over the death of George Floyd — a Kaiser Permanente health expert provides resources for families to help their children cope amid current civil unrest.

Regional Director of Behavioral Health and Addiction Medicine at Kaiser Permanente Dr. Stuart Buttlaire spoke with KRON4 News on how to explain the national unrest to children.

“This is a crisis on top of a crisis on top of a crisis … even before COVID-19 our youth had been experiencing high degrees of distress,” Buttlaire said.

“We are having high levels of phone calls at Kaiser and also across the country, the national distress lifeline has had 860 percent increase in calls between last year and this year.”

Dr. Buttlaire tells KRON4 News there are a handful of things families can do to help their children remain calm and understand what is going on around them.

For older teens families can have a discussion or a class on what on current events, freedom of speech, having rights to assemble in a peaceful manner in an effort to help them understand current circumstances.

“Make sure you are asking your kids how they’re understanding the social unrest that’s going on around them and use those as teaching moments,” 

“Right now it’s normal to have anxiety and to have difficulties.”

With recent protests Dr. Buttlaire encourages families to discuss how their children can voice their concerns but to be also be mindful of the virus not only for themselves but for their families.

Millions of Americans continue to experience financial burdens due to COVID-19 — parents and guardians are encouraged to take care of themselves first in order to effectively help their children.

“No one who is highly anxious themselves and distressed can really help their kids calm down,” Buttlaire said.

“The things that you do to take care of yourself whether its exercise, whether is talking to friends and families … all those kinds of things that you do for yourself that help you settle down can help you then help your children,”

Parents and guardians are also encouraged to find ways their children can continue to experience social settings and express their understanding of current circumstances to help their mental health.

In response with COVID-19 restrictions Kaiser Permanente has incorporated tele-mental health and video visits in effort to provide their members mental health support.

“We actually have group therapy now by video visits which the kids really like and are connected so they can see each other,” Buttlaire said.

Kaiser Permanente members have access to two apps called My Strength and Calm to assist them with anything regarding their mental health.

Dr. Buttlaire tells KRON4 News he is most concerned with children who have experienced high levels of stress in their lives which are the ones who are particularly the most vulnerable right now.

“A kid that’s having difficulties at home and actually had adverse childhood experience, who have been neglected, who have been abused … the buffers in life are their coaches, their educators, their religious leaders and mostly their parents,” Buttlaire said.

“It’s really important I want to reach to those in the juvenile justice system and foster care that they know that we care,”

As the new normal has yet to be determined parents and guardians are encouraged to plan ahead of time including contacting their children’s school to figure out how the following school year will look like.

“Parents need to contact their school districts when things are getting close and finding out how classes are going to be held,” Buttlaire said.

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