Mental health is a concern for many regardless of age, and teens are no exception. Even before the pandemic, these youth had already been plagued with problems like anxiety or depression. But experts have observed a rise in mental health problems among the young population due to the social changes forced on them by the pandemic, such as isolation, loss of connection, and lack of interaction with their peers.
The teenage years are when they develop a sense of identity through interactions with other people of similar ages and experiences. Being cut off from all these, plus the sudden disruption of routines and the absence of structure in their lives, made it difficult for teens to cope and adapt to this new lifestyle. During this time, they also experienced being confronted with death and illness, financial pressures on the family due to unemployment, and even increased cases of domestic violence.
Mental Health Condition Of Adolescents
A report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that nearly 40% of high school students experienced issues with their mental health during the pandemic. Aside from this, almost 50% said that they constantly felt sad or hopeless in the past twelve months.
The 2021 study, which included more than 4,000 high school students across the US, highlights the need to pay more attention to a looming mental health crisis with today’s youth. Considering that suicide has been one of the leading causes of death among adolescents aged 14 to 18, urgent actions must be taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the younger population.
Fortunately, the US government has initiated a campaign called the American Rescue Plan, which allotted $5 billion through the US Department of Health and Human Services to help with mental health and substance use programs. The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also recently transitioned to a three-digit dialing code, 988, and immediately experienced a 45% increase in calls compared to the same period last year.
Helping Your Child Cope With Mental Health Concerns
The fight to protect your kids’ mental health needs everyone’s involvement. While the government is doing what it can to help, parents and caregivers also have their own roles to play in order to help resolve this looming crisis.
As with any health condition, prevention is always the best step to take. Thus, parents and guardians should regularly check in with their children and have an open discussion about their emotional state.
Pay attention to their verbal and non-verbal language, and look for behavioral cues that could indicate possible mental health issues, such as aggressiveness, irritability, crying, or mood swings. You should also look out for sudden personality changes such as self-isolation, bursts of outrage, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, sleeping difficulties, changes in weight or eating habits, issues with memory or concentration, an increase in risky behaviors, or drastic changes in appearance.
Reach out to professionals and get teen mental health treatment as soon as you see any cause for concern. In the meantime, here are simple things that you can do to help your child cope during this challenging time:
Listen With An Open Mind
You must listen with an open mind to what they are saying and let them feel safe when sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings. Trust is the most important factor in this situation. When your teens believe they can open up to you without fear of judgment or reproach, it is easier for them to share what they are going through.
Provide A Safe Space
Whether they are going through mental health problems or not, this is a very challenging and scary time for teens. The pandemic had turned their world upside down, and now they are not sure what to do, how to behave, or what is expected of them. Coupled with the insecurities that normally plague adolescents at this stage, going through each day can feel pretty rough for them.
Help them get through all these by assuring them that you are there to provide support and a safe space to which they can always return after a long day. Let them know they are not alone and have people who care about their health and well-being. Talk to the school and ensure they are also exposed to an inclusive and secure environment outside the home.
Kids often emulate what they see at home, so if you want your teens to take better care of themselves, you need to show them how to do it. They are also very sensitive and can easily detect if the atmosphere is filled with fear or anxiety, which can affect their own emotional condition.
As such, even if you don’t say anything, they can feel your stress and worries and get carried away, especially if they do not understand the full context of your own situation. Though staying positive while dealing with adult problems is difficult, try to convey messages of hope and encourage them to look forward to a better future. Practice mindfulness and self-love, and take care of your overall health as well.