There’s a Mental Health Crisis in Children. Could Triathlon Help?

There’s a Mental Health Crisis in Children. Could Triathlon Help?
Posted on Dec 20 2021
Triathlete Magazine

Between technology, the ongoing pandemic, and cultural conflict, it’s no surprise kids are feeling depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Christine Crawford, M.D., MPH and Associate Medical Director for NAMI, says there was already a mental health crisis in children before the pandemic, but COVID-19 exacerbated symptoms of anxiety, sadness, irritability, and increased levels of stress in young people, partly due to inactivity and lack of social connectedness. There are now more children needing mental health care than there are available providers, said Dr. Crawford, and psychiatric care for children is at a breaking point. “We lost the ability for kids to access outlets they were using to help manage anxiety or depression,” Crawford said. According to Crawford, there is ample scientific evidence that physical activity reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which causes physical symptoms of anxiety such as increased heart rate, nausea, and upset stomach. Not only does exercise decrease cortisol levels, physical movement releases feel good neurotransmitters that help elevate a child’s mood. “Kids who are able to be part of some kind of physical movement program on a regular basis are going to derive all of these benefits over time,” Crawford said. She recommends talking with children about both the physical and emotional health benefits of regular exercise to promote better overall health and instill better lifetime habits. “When we are emotionally well, we are physically well, too,” she said.