The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in some way. It has put us in isolation, changed our structure and routine at work and in school, and has impacted our celebrations and grieving. As parents we have our own emotions and coping strategies to sort through, which can be a lot on it’s own. In addition to that, we have our children to look after as well. The emotional fallout for children, especially teenagers, has been brutal.
This is the age of their lives where they are exploring a lot of different things. They typically spend less time with us and begin to form in depth relationships with friends. It is hard to imagine being a teenager throughout all of these pandemic related transitions, and many of them may not realize how impacted they actually are.
For instance, they are all experiencing a little bit of FOMO. The amount of major life events they have missed out on is upsetting. On top of that, they haven’t been able to have regular interactions with their friends. The changes, transitions, and confusion has been overwhelming for all of us, especially our teens.
As a result, mental health issues are increasing. In some cases, teens are isolating themselves or getting comfortable in a scary place. This “comfortable place” often includes depression, and they might prefer being alone to prevent others from seeing their struggles.
The CDC found that mental health related emergency room visits increased for children ages 5 to 17. However, teenagers ages 12 to 17 accounted for the most visits, with this range increasing by 31 percent in 2020. The number of visits remained elevated through October. There was a dip in visits from mid-March to early May, which is believed to be a result of protective measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes school closures and discouraging medical visits for non-emergency situations.
Another thing to note is that many children receive care for mental health through the school system, which was not accessible when schools closed. In some cases, school-based therapists were still able to see students, but for many that was not the case. A lot of mental health disorders and illnesses begin to show up in childhood. When you consider the added anxiety and stress, it can worsen. Also, Emergency Departments lack the capacity to treat children’s mental health issues. This is not ideal for the child, but also may add stress to resources that are already stretched thin. A huge takeaway from these findings is the increased need for access to mental health care for children through other mediums. This includes teletherapy options and technology-based solutions such as StrengthenU.
While a lot of teens are experiencing increased stress from COVID-19 related transitions, whether adjusting to isolation or online schooling, or adjusting back to “normal” in some states, other teens are doing quite well. Some teens are experiencing happiness as social restrictions decline. They are eager to see friends and resume activities.
Teens also tend to be more cautious and respectful in wearing their masks. Even though they experienced many losses during the pandemic, they are now trying to make the most of time with friends. They aren’t allowing the pandemic to stop their lives anymore than it has already.
What Can Parents Do?
If your teen is struggling with all of these changes and emotions, try talking to them about it. Be sure to practice active listening, keep interruptions to a minimum, and start the discussion about mental health. Remember, everyone has mental health, just like everyone has physical health. Similarly, we need to check in with our mental health before serious issues develop.
If you do feel that your child would benefit from speaking to a mental health professional, we have options. Whether they prefer to try talk therapy, StrengthenU, or school-based therapy, give us a call and we can get you started on the right path.