As the number of COVID cases rose throughout the year, the world was put on a complete lockdown that resulted in social isolation to prevent the further spread of the illness. But during this lockdown period, many find the consequence of social isolation taxing on their mental health.
One population that studies are finding is that the pandemic is taking a considerable toll on our teens and adolescents. Until recently, very few studies looked at the psychological effects of COVID on teens. As research continues to examine the impacts of COVID-19 on teen mental health, knowing how to help your teen stay on track to recovery matters now more than ever before.
In the first few months of the pandemic, researchers found that adolescents with and without pre-existing mental health conditions experienced a decline in mental health symptoms. Before the pandemic, many children already lived with generalized anxiety, ADHD, OCD, depressive disorders, and other illnesses. Data has shown that mental health issues have more than doubled from 2020-2021 due to the pandemic. Many professionals have found that the pandemic has exacerbated these symptoms within their patients.
Hospital providers are reporting concerning rates of suicide attempts in youth since the pandemic has started, especially in teenagers. Clinicians have found a higher number of pediatric patients expressing suicidal ideations and seen an increase in worsening mental health symptoms. With the abundance of idle time during the pandemic, many teens have found the time to act on these ideations and plans to create suicide attempts.
Social isolation's toll on teens is more challenging because they haven't developed full psychological resilience and coping skills like adults. Many studies have shown that teenagers get their sense of self-worth through their friendships, which serves as a way to handle stress and depression. These inadequacies present even more of a challenge for children with pre-existing mental health issues due to lack of routine, isolation, lack of resources, and missed life events.
Due to this lack of connection, teens have found themselves looking for alternative ways to manage and cope with these new and unexpected feelings.
Struggling academically. The physical absence of school has caused some to lose behavioral resources, athletic and club involvement, or other resources that help kids succeed academically. Virtual learning can be a struggle for some, causing a drop in grades or a lack of confidence in completing their coursework.
Addiction. The cycle of addiction often comes when a person has found a dependency on something that brings them a sense of pleasure. Since teens cannot interact with friends or go about their typical daily routine, they may latch on to new things that bring them a sense of pleasure. Addiction in the younger population can consist of internet addiction, smartphone addiction, social media addiction, or drug use.
Mental health challenges. COVID-19 has caused teens to experience social isolation, grief, and missing out on significant life events like birthdays, prom, and other activities. Teens are expressing how this has caused them to experience depression, general anxiety, and other mood changes.
To help your teen stay on track, know the signs of when there may be a shift happening in their world. Their internal conflicts can start to externalize in their day-to-day actions and signify that they aren't doing well. This can look like but is not excluded to:
Paying attention to noticeable signs of changes within your child is vital for receiving the proper help in time.
Stay in touch with your pediatrician or mental health professionals. Your child's pediatrician should be a close line of contact regarding reaching out for help and recommendations. If you have any concerns about your child's health or unusual behaviors, reach out to their pediatrician so they can screen for mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and other issues. Allow your child the opportunity to speak one-on-one with their doctor so that they can vocalize in their own words what they are feeling. From there, they can also make any referrals to a facility or mental health professionals that offer specialized services for your child.
If your child has already been prescribed medicine that they routinely take, make sure they don't get out of the habit of taking it. Medication is a crucial part of recovery for some individuals and helps relieve symptoms of their illness that the stress of the pandemic may otherwise exacerbate. It is easy for one missed dose to evolve into missing multiple doses, eventually forgetting to take any at all.
Many teenagers aren't entirely sure how they should express their feelings or don't always feel comfortable doing so. Instead of bottling their emotions up inside, create a space for them to be comfortable to share how they feel. Dealing with loneliness, grief, and mood changes is difficult for anyone to experience, especially for adolescents who are still new to these feelings. Offer them alternative ways to stay in touch with their friends through phone calls or other COVID-friendly options.
The pandemic has taken a mental toll on everyone and has not discriminated against teens. As a parent, helping your child stay on the right track during recovery should not be a task you have to face alone. At Clearfork Academy, we are dedicated to helping your son fully recover and heal from any drug use or mental health challenges they are experiencing in life. We also believe that an integral part of an adolescent's everyday life is their academics, which can be negatively impacted during drug use along with co-occurring illnesses and the disruption of an unexpected pandemic. During the treatment process, we partner with UTCS through a program that allows our patients to stay academically focused as they graduate from our program. Life throws many unexpected curveballs our way. Needing help to get through life stressors does not mean you are weak. Call Clearfork Academy at (817) 259-2597 to find out more about our treatment programs today.