Tri-Cities psychologists, physicians speak about children’s mental health and masking

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – This week, Tri-Cities medical professionals signed a letter to the community providing information for parents on masking.

The letter is signed by 35 different individuals and organizations, including licensed psychologists, pediatricians, educators, social workers and the Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The letter was organized by Tri-Cities psychologist Dr. Jodi Polaha.

“I noticed that there was a lot of confusing information out there for parents and really felt for parents who were having to navigate this new mask terrain of in or out, you know opting in and out,” Polaha said.

Polaha said she wanted to make sure that the best evidence is available to the public and disseminate that in a way that’s impactful and helpful to people.

In the letter, psychologists emphasized there is no known connection between wearing a mask and poor mental health among children or teens.

“There are things that make families truly resilient and effective at coping with those stressors,” psychologist Dr. Ramsey McGowen said. “So, just trying to offer that to families, parents, the community that we can get through this, and they have resources to help them.”

Pediatrician Dr. Karen Schetzina said that she recommends parents talk with children about why they should wear a mask.

“Maybe it’s to keep their friends safe, keep their teachers safe,” Schetzina said. “You can practice at home, you can role-model it by wearing a mask, put a mask on a stuffed animal.”

The letter provides resources for parents concerned about their child’s mental health, including parenting guidelines from the American Psychological Association and Zero to Three, a non-profit that promotes scientific guidance for early childhood development.

Medical professionals also said even something good can come out of the pandemic for your child.

“Some show you know what we would call resilience or even better than they were before in that they learned something new and have learned some strength,” Polaha said. “Found some strength in themselves that they can overcome.”

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