As someone whose Spanish vocabulary is embarrassingly limited, it is peculiar that this phrase immediately jumped to mind when deciding to write this month’s column. It was a phrase that someone I knew in the late 1970s named Zack used whenever he added a gratuity at restaurants and bars. As I recall he said the phrase each time indiscriminately, whether the cultural background of the person attending to us was Hispanic, White, African American, Asian, etc. In 1979 I was barely out of college and out and about on the town in my new home of Atlanta far more frequently than my old self today. So, I heard “para los niños” a lot, and early on learned its meaning, ‘for the children.”
“For the children” … it seems so relevant at the moment, and on many levels as a new Omicron wave of the pandemic is headlining in the media with restrictions likely to follow yet again. To quote the famous line from the first World War, the feeling I have is a “once again into the breach” type of anxiety, depression, and some fear.
As an older (“OF” to my family) and hopefully more resilient person, what frightens me most is my concern for the life, and quality of life, for my children and my grandchildren. What children and adolescents have experienced over the past two years is unnatural and unparalleled, however normal we as parents, grandparents, family, and teachers have tried to make the world for them.
The mental health of our children and adolescents has borne the heavy brunt of the pandemic as they have dealt with and continue to deal with issues of quarantine, social isolation, parental loss of jobs and income, and very mixed back-to-school messaging. The statistics for our children bear this out. The percentage of our pediatric population suffering from serious mental health issues has gone from very bad to simply horrific.
The problems for children will not cease when/if the pandemic ever ceases. Rather, they will be with us for many years to come. It may be years before we even fully comprehend the impact of the past two years. At this point, we have no choice but to prepare for the worst and put the same level of effort into mitigating this crisis as we did in developing vaccines.
For several years, nView Health has been a proponent of screening everyone for their mental health annually as we would for physical health. “Screen everyone, ages 6 & up, annually” for their mental health has been our battle cry and will continue to be. It is perhaps the only way that we can try and get ahead of the large and growing storm we are already in midst of.
So, as we enter this holiday that will once again be a bizarre paradox of Holiday Cheer and Holiday Fear, I pray that everyone pays very close attention to the mental health of our children at least, if not our own mental health. Screen them, talk with them, and seek professional help if you are concerned about them.
Please … para los niños.
Meet the author ...
Jim Szyperski, CEO of nView Health
Jim Szyperski is an experienced leader of high-growth technology companies and has served as the Chief Executive Officer of companies in energy management, financial services, and telecommunications prior to his role at nView. At nView, Jim is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction of the company and an incredible team of leaders who are building the digital future of behavioral health. Jim is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and lives in Atlanta with his wife and family.