Written by Harini Sethuraman
What Effects did the Pandemic Create on Teens?
The world pandemic, COVID-19, first appeared to the world in this month, December 2019. This month marks the start of a 4th year to this pandemic. The COVID pandemic created a disastrous effect on adolescents mental health. It caused depression, anxiety, insecurities, and much more. It brought many hidden issues to light involving mental health. Since teens were in loneliness for almost 2 years, their mental health couldn’t handle the change causing depression and mental disorders. Anxiety increased massively when teens had to go out of their house for the first time in two years after school reopened. Teens couldn’t handle this sudden change after being in loneliness, resulting in anxiety and insecurities to come out of their house. Online and virtual school also created more stress when students found out they couldn't talk to their friends in-person for a while and had to attend school from home. Life just became boring and lonely at one point for students causing them to hate life. This impact of the pandemic still follows even now even though it has been over a year since school opened.
Quotes from Teens Experiencing Mental Health Issues Caused by the Pandemic
“Being at home and not in person made it more difficult to manage my school work and my personal life, which brought a lot of stress and anxiety.” - Cristina Alvizo (17 yr old)
“I would be online for 12 hours a day. That was really difficult for me.” - Denis Alvarez (22 yr old)
“The uncertainty of everything. Would I have the opportunity to return to campus, or have a basketball season?” - Temi Carda (22 yr old)
“Doing the same repetitive tasks every day with little variation can be so boring.” - Evelyn Lund (16 yr old)
“I’m going to describe (the pandemic) as kind of a challenging time.” - Russell Poutasse (13 yr old)
“most are missing their teachers, their friends and their normal lives and a lot are frustrated about missing out on things like spring break, field trips and graduation.” - Anonymous
“I felt like I was trapped in my own little house and everyone was far away.” - Aya Raji (14 yr old)
What do Research and Studies Show?
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) conducted a study on how teens felt during the pandemic and online school (2021). This study results in 37 percent (more than a third) of teens saying they had poor mental health during the pandemic. 44 percent of teens reported feeling sad and hopeless all the time. 29 percent of teens reported that their family members lost jobs. Over a third of teens (36 percent) reported that they faced racism that they’ve never experienced before (64 percent of these teens were Asians). About 14 percent of teens thought of attempting suicide after these situations at home.
This research shows that teens had very mixed and uneasy feelings during the pandemic. It was very upsetting to their mental health to be experiencing things they have never in their whole life. Teens are in their developing and maturing ages, so this change affects them the most compared to little kids and adults.
From My Own Experience
Quarantine was one of the hardest experiences I have ever felt in my whole life. It was really depressing when I could not meet my friends or talk with them that often. The new “normal” was very hard to accept. Even when school reopened, it didn't feel the same. Wearing masks and being precautious in every move made me hate school reopening. Online school was very boring and staying at home was as well. I did get to spend more time with my family and had much more free time, but it became depressing at one point to stay in isolation for such a long time. I’m pretty sure all teens felt that same way during quarantine. Now that it’s over, people may assume all problems went away. But, that’s when anxiety was seen in every teen. I felt insecure to take my mask off for the first time even though I really wanted to, everything just felt different since everyone was already adapted to a new “normal”. I think that these constantly changing moods and settings is what causes teens to be in mental depressions.
How to Manage Depression and Anxiety
Getting rid of depression, anxiety and mental health problems all at once isn’t possible, but making small steps to achieve this is the right thing to do.
Talking to a person whom you trust is a great way to cope with depression and mental illnesses. Some people you can reach out to when help is needed:
School counselor, school psychologist, a teacher you trust
Mom, dad, trusted family member, older sibling
Your pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a medical professional, etc.
Online sites such as SAMHSA’s National Helpline, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illnesses), Grassroots (Suicide Prevention), etc.
Join a teen support group
Some steps you can take on your own:
Talk to yourself (tell yourself it’s okay, there’s no other person than yourself who you can convince)
Find an alternative to feeling depressed, find something you’re interested in and do that to relax yourself (art, gymnastics, sports, music, dance, reading, etc.)
Use your time wisely, do the things you think you want to do in the time where you feel sad instead of wasting your time and giving extra stress to yourself
Follow a sleep schedule, don’t stay up too late, go to sleep and wake up the same time everyday
Eat healthy, not too much junk food when feeling depressed, this will result in a bad health for your body
Regularly exercise, or else your body will be drowned and depressed
Avoid the use of drugs when experiencing depression or anxiety, it will make the situation much more worse than it already is
Don’t spend too much time on a screen, set yourself a limit, looking too much at social media was one of the main causes of depression in teens during the pandemic
Relax, don’t stress yourself too much, take breaks often
These strategic techniques can be used to prevent future depression and can be used to try to reduce the depression you already have.