Mental Health Professionals

Urban Youth Trauma Center | COVID-19 Best Practices

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Mental Health Professionals

UYTC COVID Best Practices 02COVID-19 Best Practices for Trauma Intervention
Mental Health Professionals
Know the signs… be supportive
Living through a global pandemic such a COVID-19 can lead to a range of social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. It is important that individuals are able to identify the signs that children and youth may be struggling and know the best ways that they can provide support.
  • Families may feel overwhelmed due to job loss, childcare issues, shelter in place restrictions, and homeschooling. Provide parents with stress management tips and community resources.
  • Identify individuals who may be using negative coping strategies during this time (i.e. substance use or self-harm) and provide tips for positive coping strategies such as engaging in exercise or physical activity, staying connected with others via social media or by phone, eating healthy, and getting adequate sleep.
  • Some families may be dealing with COVID-19 related grief due the loss of a relative, friend, teacher, etc. While grief does not look the same for everyone, individuals will benefit from support or resources focused on things associated with death such as anger or feelings of emptiness, anxiety or uncertainty, detachment, etc.
  • A lot of families may need your support during this time. Explore telehealth options at your agency and make sure you are equipped to offer services via phone or video.
A sense of Trust
The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and youth to feel that they cannot rely on anyone for safety or support. The presence of positive and stable relationships is extremely important. The care and support provided by caregivers and other adults can help with positive development and resiliency.
  • During a pandemic or global crisis, children may seek more attachment with their caregiver. In addition to assisting via family therapy, give parents tips for how they can help to ease their child’s anxiety and provide comfort and reassurance during this time.
  • Many families rely on you as a key source of support and stability. Since many places are sheltering in place, make sure that you have a plan for how to keep in touch with families and maintain rapport with clients.
  • Your clients trust you to be honest and straightforward. Be intentional in what you share with them regarding the virus and make sure your information is from a trusted source. Use words they can understand but also limit the amount of information you share with them.
A sense of Mastery
Changes in normal routines and the transition to at-home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and adolescents to develop low self-esteem, poor self-mastery, and the belief that they are unable to accomplish tasks or develop new skills. It is important to support children and youth who may be struggling during this time and work with them on building new skills and developing a sense of mastery.
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  • Help parents and youth create daily schedules which include completion of schoolwork as well as engagement in extracurricular activities that can be done while at home.
  • Encourage older youth in high school to utilize this time to prepare for the future (looking at colleges, finding options for summer jobs, making a list of goals, etc.).
Feeling Safe
The uncertainty surrounding this virus, daily media reports, shelter in place policies, and constantly changing information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and youth to feel unsafe or concerned about their family’s wellbeing. It is important to work towards creating an environment where individuals can feel safe by helping to identify safe spaces, building supportive relationships, and discussing ways to stay safe and healthy.
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  • For some children, their home may not be a safe environment. Be mindful that they may have previously or currently experienced abuse and/or neglect in their home and be prepared to contact child protective services if needed.
  • Many individuals are worried about their health and safety during this time, especially as the number of deaths due to COVID-19 continues to increase. Instead of focusing on the rate of exposure or death, when talking with youth and families try to focus on what they can do to stay safe such as washing hands, social distancing, staying at home, etc.
  • Be mindful of how food insecurity, job loss, and the inability to pay rent or bills can also cause a child or family to feel unsafe during this time.
  • For families previously or currently experiencing domestic violence, the encouragement to stay at home due to COVID-19 may put them at increased risk. If working with this population, have a list of shelters or hotlines available to help families who may need assistance.
  • If you are still having in-person counseling sessions make sure you create a safe office environment for patients. Promote good hygiene in your office and post signs about COVID-19 safety tips.
Changing the Message
The information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic changes daily and children and youth are getting information from multiple sources. It is important to identify their current beliefs regarding COVID-19, promote positive thinking regarding recovery, continue reviewing ways to stay safe, and avoid spreading false information.
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  • Try to decrease the stigma surrounding COVID-19 and utilize first person language. For example, say “people who have COVID-19” or “people who are recovering from COVID-19” instead of saying “COVID-19 victim” or “COVID-19 cases”.
  • This is an unprecedented time, which means that there will be a lot of misinformation, rumors, and conflicting messages circulating. When possible, find opportunities to spread factual information and highlight positive stories or positive images about COVID-19 recovery.
  • This situation is new for everyone and while it’s difficult to understand for all individuals—it can be especially tough for younger children and those with cognitive disabilities. Find several different ways to share messages about COVID-19, such as using pictures and developmentally appropriate content.

Share Your Story! Using the hash tags #PromotingPandemicPeace and #UYTC, share examples of how you are using the best practice strategies to help yourself, your family, or others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click UYTC Coping with COVID-19 Best Practices Fact Sheet to download a printable copy for all youth providers and audiences.


Share Your Story! Take the Pledge!

We would like you to join our campaign by writing down your pledge for how you plan to use the best practice strategies to help yourself, your family, or others during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can share your pledge on social media using the hashtags #PromotingPandemicPeace, #UYTC, and #COVID19

Click COVID-19 Campaign Instructions and Pledge Sheet to download a printable copy.