How COVID-19 is Damaging the Mental Health of Teens

Jordane Branch, Staff Writer

Anxiety and stress are feelings that everyone experiences every day. It’s okay to feel anxious or stressed; but too much of it can be detrimental to anyone’s social abilities, physical abilities, and mental health. People must know what mental health is and the signs of poor mental health. An adolescent’s mental health is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly

Mental health is defined as someone’s emotional, psychological, and social state of mind and their ability to cope with the stresses of daily life. Mental health is a growing issue that hasn’t received the attention it truly needs up until recent years. One of the most important groups to deal with in terms of their emotional health is teens, a group that has seen a significant rise in reported cases of mental health issues since the start of the pandemic. 

In “Pandemic Has Harmed Mental Health of Teens” for WebMD, HealthDay reporter Robert Preidt shared the results of a new poll that looked into the impact of the pandemic on teens. He reported that the rise in cases among teens in his article “Pandemic Has Harmed Mental Health of Teens.” He wrote that “researchers found that out of 998 parents, 48 percent of parents found that their children were displaying new or worsening signs of struggling mental health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.” It’s obvious that the pandemic harmed adolescents and action needs to be taken.

Preidt quotes pediatrician Dr. Gary Freed, the co-director of the poll, expressed that the poll suggests that, “Pandemic-related lifestyle changes have wreaked havoc on teens’ lives, with many experiencing disruptions to their normal routines.” Freed added, “Our poll suggests that pandemic-era changes may have had a significant mental health impact for some teenagers.” It is not a secret that mental health has been a burden for a vast number of teens.

I went through a mental health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic that felt interminable and complex. The abrupt transition from “normal” everyday life to a pandemic-focused life completely changed my well-being. The significant loss in social interaction, being forced to stay at home, and what felt like constant uncertainty and fear were factors that played a big role in why my mental health crashed. 

Since then, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. I’ve developed quite a bit of social anxiety and it’s been harder to return to normalcy – even with school being back in session full-time. The daunting uncertainty of returning to school with people I haven’t been around, not knowing how I would respond to events that seemed so normal before the pandemic, and second-guessing the school’s approach to maintaining public safety have all made the transition from what became a sort of “new normal” to yet another normal very difficult and traumatic. 

From unintentional observation of my peers, I noticed the unfortunate fact that many teens have been experiencing similar feelings and emotions. Mental health among teens is an issue that is highly overlooked and shouldn’t be. This is something that should be prioritized and talked about more to teens to better combat the issue. 

Schools nationwide have been implementing mindfulness and mental health awareness incentives into student life. One example of something in place at Paint Branch is the Zen Den. This activity occurs during lunch and it offers a place for people to practice mindfulness, a chance to slow down and relax in a positive setting. The Zen Den is a place where people are provided a proper atmosphere to wind down, meditate and refocus their minds during the school day. 

Schools throughout Montgomery County, MD are required to participate in a program called Be Well 365. This program is a wellness resource that can enhance a student’s social, mental, and physical abilities. Be Well 365 helps point students in the right direction when help is needed. This is an effective way to get more teens involved with themselves and their peers and improve their overall performance.

School can be stressful and this stress can have negative effects on students’ performance throughout the day. Schools have certainly shown that they can contribute to students’ well-being outside of pushing for academic excellence. Although the school cannot be the panacea for societal problems faced by students, in some cases they are forced to be.

Teaching mental health to teens is imperative to combat poor mental health. Learning the signs, how to cope and whom to contact when help is needed are things that are vital to the difference between the transition from poor to sufficient mental health and the continuation of inadequate mental health.  There are ways that families can be of assistance to their teens when it comes to mental health.