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Caring for Children, Youth, and Families via Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted 9/1/2020 (updated 1/6/2021)

As we join together in our response to fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we physically separate ourselves from one another, significantly impacting how we work and live. Many of us are concerned about not knowing what the future holds, including children and adolescents. Our youth have been ripped from their traditional, stabilizing social infrastructure, introducing significant physical and emotional disruption. Prolonged social distancing and isolation can have a long-term impact, including adverse effects on mental health and exacerbation of already-existing mental health conditions. Signs of distress in children may, however, go unnoticed as adults are distracted by their own anxiety and depression.

While the primary focus is—and needs to be—on the physical health of our nation, we must also focus on the mental health and well-being of the millions of youth currently living in a disrupted and unstable reality. Fortunately, telemental health services have been on the rise and provide a much-needed resource for families during this time of crisis. The following sections include a brief overview of the impact of COVID-19 on pediatric mental health, including on trauma, and provide practitioners with strategies to navigate care delivery during times of limited, in-person interactions, as well as with general considerations and strategies for maximizing the use of telemental health with youth. Practitioners should consult their own state laws, ethics boards, payors, and malpractice insurance carriers to assure that they are abiding by all the applicable laws and regulations for their practice.