Updated: May 16, 2022
The Covid-19 Pandemic caused a crisis in the health care system. Besides the physical health crisis, many people suffered from mental health challenges. According to a study done by Meherali et al, social distancing, school closure and isolation have had a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of children and adolescence. (1) Children are experiencing depression, anxiety, sleep and eating disturbances and difficulties with social interactions. However, gender differences exist when it comes to mental illnesses/ disturbances. In one study, It was noted girls had significantly higher scores of psychological distress, anxiety and depression compared with boys (2). According to Mayo Clinic, during puberty and after puberty depression rates are higher in girls than boys. For many females, this trend of depression may arise and/or continues during menstrual phases, pregnancy and in postpartum stages of life (3).
So, what can we do about it?
A very old Hebrew Scholar named Solomon once wrote, ‘A merry heart does good like a medicine’. Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. wrote an article showing that there are true medical benefits of laughing.
Here are a few reasons why laughter works:
relaxes muscles in the body for up to 45 minutes, boosts the immune system, release endorphins which are the feel-good chemicals, makes blood flow better, burns calories. Laughter is also found to strengthen relationships. (4).
Have you every heard a young toddler ‘belly laugh’ either when tickled or after you do something funny? The laughter is so contagious anyone who hears it cannot help but at least smile because it is just too cute.
May 3-9 is Child Mental Health Awareness Week.
Let us honor our children and promote their mental health and well-being by giving them the benefits of laughter. And let us pay close attention to our daughters knowing that they are generally at a higher risk of facing mental health issues.
Some ways to make you and your children laugh are:
1. Tell jokes. There are many family friendly knock knock jokes or other jokes that you can access online or in books. Or, you and your child can make up jokes on your own. Your child may surprise you with their creativity.
2. Take a walk down memory lane and recall funny family stories.
3. Play games that encourage laughter in your children, ie. tickle wars, pillow fights, tag, making funny faces.
4. Plan regular daughter and mother dates that encourage play and humor like planning a comedy show; record it then watch it and share it with others.
5. Have silly creative time with art projects or dressing up in costumes.
6. Watch family friendly funny videos, shows or movies.
And, if it’s not time to laugh, just make it a habit in your family, that no matter what happens, try to find the silver lining in every situation because if you look hard enough, you can always find one.
Written by: Colette Reahl, MD
Double Board Certified in Pediatrics and Board Certified in Lifestyle Medicine
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1. Mental Health of Children and Adolescents Amidst COVID-19 and Past Pandemics: A Rapid Systematic Review
Salima Meherali 1, Neelam Punjani 1, Samantha Louie-Poon 1, Komal Abdul Rahim 2, Jai K Das 2, Rehana A Salam 2, Zohra S Lassi 3
2. Gender differences in mental health problems among adolescents and the role of social support: results from the Belgian health interview surveys 2008 and 2013. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-018-1591-4
3. Depression in Women: Understanding the Gender Gap.
4. Laughter is the best Medicine. Health Guides.