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'We have failed our children': Goldie Hawn warns COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed mental trauma on an entire generation of kids

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Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Equality Now

Goldie Hawn warned that the national trauma inflicted on children by the COVID-19 pandemic is approaching and "could very well surpass" the dread brought on by the 9/11 terror attacks and the Cold War.

In an op-ed for USA Today, Hawn described how she saw her "entire world get ripped apart" by the threat of all-out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1956 when she was in the fifth grade.

After being shown a graphic and grim educational film about the dangers of nuclear war, the then-11-year-old Goldie Hawn ran home during lunch to call her mother at work and told her, "Mommy, come home quick! We’re all going to die!"

Hawn said the threat of nuclear holocaust inflicted trauma on her for years.

"Even in high school, I’d hear a siren in the morning and be too terrified to go to school that day," Hawn wrote. "This was a specific trauma that affected me, but it was a collective trauma, too – an entire generation of American children was, in some form or another, taught to think of nuclear holocaust as a real threat."

Hawn compared the collective trauma endured by her generation to the upheaval other generations experienced – such as children who watched the Challenger space shuttle disaster happen live on Jan. 28, 1986, the kids who witnessed the Twin Towers collapse from the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the youngsters who have had their lives turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We all know how magical a child’s imagination can be – the wonderful worlds they create in their minds. But there’s a flip side to the joyful creativity that can turn a big cardboard box into a spaceship," the "Overboard" actress articulated. "A child’s mind exposed to real-world fear, without the ability to properly process it, can go down dark passages leading to nothing less than existential dread."

Hawn explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has robbed adults and children of critical "support structures that all humans depend on for perspective, encouragement, and love."

"The COVID era has changed our children’s lives in far more real, tangible ways — social distancing, school closures, daily mask use," she added. "Kids are afraid of people, spaces, even the air around them – a level of constant fear not seen in decades."

Hawn cited a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts by adolescent girls spiked nearly 51% in 2021 and almost 4% for boys.

The movie star noted that U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy cautioned in December that the COVID-19 pandemic has had "unprecedented impacts on the mental health of America’s youth and families."

She also linked to a declaration of national emergency in child and adolescent mental health by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association.

"As health professionals dedicated to the care of children and adolescents, we have witnessed soaring rates of mental health challenges among children, adolescents, and their families over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the situation that existed prior to the pandemic," the declaration stated in October. "Children and families across our country have experienced enormous adversity and disruption."

Hawn commented on the alarming concerns about the mental health of America's youth, "This tells us that as a nation, we have failed our children."

"We are not properly funding preventive care and early interventions that normalize the mental struggles every individual has at some level," the Academy Award-winning actress wrote. "There are everyday tools for mental fitness, just as there are for exercise and healthy eating; we just don’t teach them in any systematic way to our nation’s children."

Hawn called for "helping children understand the chemical reactions that occur in their mind" when they hear the "latest horrifying statistic or headline on the evening news." She said that understanding how the brain works will provide children with "the patience and confidence to put things in perspective, rather than fall victim to the emotions of the moment and end up in a helplessness that leads to depression and sometimes self-harm, the kind we are seeing in record numbers among children."

She warned that the answer is not to allow kids to "be over-diagnosed or shuffled through a system that screens and treats extreme cases after they are too late."

"We will survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m not sure we can survive an entire generation whose collective trauma sends them hobbling into adulthood. We need more research, more preventative care and more early intervention. And there’s still time," Hawn concluded. "If we get it right, today’s kids could emerge as the strongest generation America has ever produced."

Hawn also made headlines this week when she appeared on "The Megyn Kelly Show" and proclaimed that Hollywood celebrities need to entertain the public no matter what political affiliations they have.

"I stay in my lane," Hawn declared when it comes to spouting political opinions.

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