Teen mental health in trouble due to COVID-19

SUFFERING IN SILENCE. Teens are facing more mental health challenges due to COVID-19.

Murphy Cody

SUFFERING IN SILENCE. Teens are facing more mental health challenges due to COVID-19.

The Editorial Board

Since the beginning of quarantine, teachers, counselors and even parents have been concerned about their teen’s mental health. Online school, the pandemic, and social media have teens overstressed and isolated.

According to “The Council on Recovery”, teenager’s brains are not fully developed yet and still need support for “regulation”, meaning sleep patterns, use of technology, and so on. When the pandemic hit, teens’ lives were disrupted. Suddenly, students had little to no social interaction and support. This caused a rise in depression and loneliness among many teens.

For some teens, being home full-time can create more chores, such as babysitting siblings, housework, taking care of relatives and even having to take on part-time jobs. They take on these challenges all while completing online schoolwork. This can cause additional pressure and stress. Sometimes, parents aren’t there to provide support, since they often have to work.

Another leading factor in teen mental issues is social media. A study published by the American Psychological Association found that over the last decade, rates of mood-disorders and suicide-related issues have increased among teenagers. Social media may be in part to blame. During a pandemic, social media is one of only a few ways teens can stay in contact with their friends.

While social media can serve as a healthy way to cope, it can also quickly develop into an addiction. Some teens look to social media as a temporary escape, but this can distract them from the real world and cause them to constantly want to be in that “escape”. Instead of using social media as a way to cope in a healthy manner, it can make these mental health issues worse.

Social media can also give teens a false feeling of validation. A study done by the UCLA Brain Mapping Center showed that when one receives positive feedback from a post, such as comments or likes, the brain activates the same kind of circuit it would when eating chocolate or winning money. Since the brain comprehends social media the same way as real-life interaction, it can develop the habit of replacing daily physical human interaction with social media.

According to the same survey, teens are aware of these mental health issues, as well. The teens surveyed reported that anxiety and depression were an even bigger problem than bullying, drug addiction and poverty.

A separate study done by the National 4-H Council found that out of about 1,500 teenagers, 7 out of 10 reported that they had recently struggled with some kind of mental issue.

So, what are ways teens can healthily cope with the stress and loneliness of a pandemic? The first step is to talk to someone they trust. Self-isolating will only make it worse. Spending time with friends and family can help cure the feeling of loneliness and depression.

It can also be beneficial to cut back on social media use and to develop more healthy habits, such as exercise, eating healthy foods and getting at least 8 hours of sleep.

Schools have an important role to play here, too. Even when schools are on a virtual or hybrid schedule, counselors and members of the school community have to make it a point to check on their students’ mental well-being.

If a friend or person you know is struggling with these issues, try and talk to them. Remember, while talking to them, that when advice is not asked for, it is better not given.

Sometimes, you just need to be there to listen.