Covid-19 and Adolescent Mental Health
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
During the Covid-19 pandemic, no one has been spared from how isolation, anxiety, and threats to our health and safety have impacted our everyday lives. Research is showing that the mental health of adolescents has been particularly impacted as their routines, social life, and sense of control was eliminated.
Across the board, mental health providers are seeing a raise in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic symptoms, and eating disorders for adolescents. When the Covid-19 lockdowns began, I was working at a residential eating disorder facility where we saw a surge of admissions and a raise in acuity for adolescents. What we came to realize is the environment that Covid-19 created for adolescents was the perfect recipe for disaster, which exacerbated symptoms that were already present along with planting harmful new seeds that may not have otherwise blossomed. There were many new hurdles to attend to as a therapist while we were helping our patients and their families. With waitlists for services because of the heightened need, to figuring out how to maintain social life and support safely; it was a tall order for everyone involved. Below are helpful tricks for parents and adolescents to help with navigating mental health during these times:
Don't wait to get help
It can be very appealing to try and brush off any worsening of symptoms or new ones as being “not really that bad.” Waiting can make the process of healing harder and longer for everyone involved. Also, adolescents are really good at hiding things, so what a parent may see is just the tip of the iceberg. Because of this, my biggest and most important tip is get help immediately if you notice something is off.
With most schools being back in session, semblances of routines have started back up again. However this also means transitions, which can be hard for everyone. Whether it is going back to school, going back to work, or the opposite, it can be helpful to have a clear family schedule for everyone involved. There are apps that create combined family calendars that can help everyone know whose where and what is going on each day. Also creating new routines such as family nights to reconnect and unplug can be extremely helpful and supportive.
Enjoy varied passions and hobbies
We all have our go-to past times whether that be binge watching a show or scrolling through social media. However, if we continue to fill up on one monotonous past time, we are not allowing other parts of our personality and creativity to bloom. Ensuring we have varied hobbies allows us to express ourselves and process in different ways. It can be helpful to have materials on hand for the different hobbies you enjoy such as painting, roller blading, sewing, etc. This way when you have free time and find yourself grabbing your phone or heading towards the TV, you can take a second to check in with yourself and see what would actually be more enjoyable or helpful in the moment.
Make and keep connections
Checking in with your friends and family in ways that feel safe and comfortable to you can help with support and being a part of a community. Isolation can often lead us to hearing the echo chamber inside our heads, not giving us perspective or validation. If we are mentally struggling and not reaching out to others, this can perpetuate negative beliefs about ourselves. Friends and family can be sounding boards for our experiences, and help give new perspectives.
We all need to adapt and be aware of our mental health during big transitions. Stay safe, and continue checking in with yourself!
Written by Devan of SafeHeart Counseling. Devan is the founder and owner of SafeHeart Counseling, which provides therapy services to children, teens, and families. SafeHeart Counseling specializes in working with eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, and family conflict.