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COVID-19 & Mental Illness: The Impact on Youth


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The pandemic, lockdowns, increased regulations, and social isolation has brought about an array of factors that drastically impact mental health. In particular, children under the age of 18 have been negatively impacted by the closure of schools, forced isolation from friends, and a lack of activities to keep them busy. We won’t know the effects of remote learning for years, but it’s safe to say that the results probably won’t be great. Because there are so many factors that arise as a result of COVID-19, it’s difficult to know the extent of the virus’s impact on young people. Here is what the health-based community has to say on the matter:


Research Findings

A recent survey that was given to 359 children from 7-18 years of age assessed depression, anxiety, and coping mechanisms utilized. It demonstrated that roughly 22 percent of children showed signs of clinical depression, which is 10 points higher than the average rate of depression for that age group. Anxiety symptoms were also higher, especially for children who had experience with a family member who suffered from the condition.


Another survey assessed the impact of social isolation and boredom on the mental health of young children to see if quarantines predict future mental health problems. In conclusion, the study showed that the duration of loneliness and boredom correlates with long-term mental health problems. This verifies that the mental health problems caused by COVID-19 today could potentially affect these children’s mental well-being in the future, even after society returns to normal.


Causes of Mental Health Problems

The CDC has summarized the primary problems caused by COVID-19 and how they affect the mental health of children and adolescents. These include-


· Change in Routines – Physical and social distancing requires children to be separate from friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, sports, activities, and the church community. This can cause an immense amount of anxiety and depression.

· Remote Learning – Though kids may complain about school, the vast majority of them miss being around their friends. They need the structure, the learning continuity, and the disciplinary environment to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. School is also essential for educational purposes and to foster personal development.

· Missing Out on Life Events – Like the rest of us, children are not immune to missing out on social events due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, children are also less able to handle the isolation that comes from missing out on these events. School dances, dates, sports, clubs, and more are essential for personal development.

· Loss of Security and Safety – Any sort of change causes personal stress. This is particularly true when it relates to the draconian changes brought about by COVID-19. Those who already suffered from OCD, anxiety, depression, or addiction are more at risk to see an uptick in symptoms and a sense of insecurity.

· Increase in Mental Health Symptoms – Many young people already struggle with anxiety, depression, addiction, or even self-harm behaviors. COVID-19 has caused a spike in these symptoms, particularly among those who already suffered from these conditions.


Finding Help

Many people believe the negative impact COVID-19 has had on youth is so egregious that regulations and lockdowns are doing more harm than good. While this is up for debate, the only measure that parents can take is to look for solutions. Here are some methods for parents to help their children cope during this trying time.


1. Treat Stress & Keep a Routine

Young people are particularly affected by a traumatic event such as enforced isolation and the closure of schools. This can cause excessive worry that leads to unhealthy eating patterns, panic attacks, lack of sleep, or even self-harm. Parents can provide a stable environment by helping children learn healthy coping techniques. This includes limiting news exposure, arranging safe play dates, maintaining a routine, limiting time spent on devices, and spending time doing meaningful activities.


2. Encourage Social Connection

Luckily, we live in an age where communication through computers is possible. Allow children to engage online for a short time every day. Try to arrange a safe play date outside to allow kids to spend time together. Outdoor activities are typically safe and help release excess boredom and built-up stress.


3. Find Help

Sometimes, a child needs professional help to handle the trauma caused by COVID-19. Luckily, there are many therapists performing teletherapy at low costs. Straight Talk Counseling offers several services for adolescents, children, and adults. This allows individuals to speak with an impartial person who can provide solutions and coping techniques.


Is your child struggling with anxiety or depression due to COVID-19? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.


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If you are in a life threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-273-8255. Your call will be routed to the crisis center near you. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.  

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