The Pandemic and Its Effects on Teen Mental Health

The coronavirus (COVID-19) caused many issues of fear, anxiety, depression, stress, uncertainty, and weariness for everyone. This was particularly true for teens who had to face school shutdowns, lack of socialization, and increased stress at home. On top of other stresses that teens struggle with normally, the pandemic heightened risks for the development of anxiety and depression. Let’s discuss some of the major effects COVID-19 had on teen mental health.

School Shut Downs

Schooling takes up a majority of children’s lives, promoting social skills, education, independence and responsibilities. They spend about 12 years in total going to school 5 days a week. It becomes a normal part of their routine and helps build their identities as young people in society. The pandemic shut down all schools for months, forcing the students to attend online schooling from their homes.

School can be difficult for teens and even more challenging when they are having to learn virtually rather than in person. Resources are limited, communication with teachers is not easily accessible, and social supports are severed. The stress of the adjustment to attending school at home and the potential of grades dropping, anxiety and depression symptoms start to increase.

Lack of Socialization

The pandemic called for a cease of all face-to-face contact without maintaining 6-feet distance. For fear of catching symptoms, most individuals stayed within their homes. Without having activities, fun plans, or social activities to engage with, teenagers struggled with feelings of intense loneliness, sadness, and despair. Even with the use of cell phones, social supports from peers and extended family members became limited.

Disengagement with Extracurriculars

Along with schools, restaurants, stores, and many other businesses, after school activities also shut down. Sports, clubs, and any other group activities did not meet for months, leaving teens with the inability to engage in things that bring them joy. Lack of extracurriculars enhances screen time by texting, scrolling, watching, and playing games. More time spent on their screens can lower motivation to exercise, talk with family and friends, and engage in self-care.

Family Stress

Being stuck indoors with the same people for months on end can cause an increase in conflict, irritation, arguments, and overall stress. With no way to relive this stress, tension can become almost unbearable. Symptoms of mental health issues start to impact teens. It is also possible that some teenagers’ home lives were not safe and warm before the pandemic. Staying in a hostile environment like this can cause emotional distress on the individual with no way to escape.

Long-Term Effects

Even now, 4 years out from the start of the pandemic, these effects can still impact teens today. Going back to school provided more anxiety rather than relief for most kids. Facing crowds, wearing masks, and learning to navigate safety now with COVID-19 present added to the stress.

After months of not socializing at all, children are now struggling with social skills and communication. School work is another added challenge; being out of study habits and not effectively learning for months can set kids back on where they should be academically.

Teenage and adolescent years present many challenges with identity, autonomy, relationships, education, and career interests. This age group is already susceptible to the diagnosis of mental health disorders. Add the mental toll of the pandemic and the risks increase exponentially.

If you notice that your child is still suffering with mental health symptoms, it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional. COVID-19 was a terrible time for everyone and it’s time to learn to move forward and readjust our lives living with the illness.

Therapists can help your child with this transition as well as managing anxiety and depression symptoms caused by the pandemic. Reach out and schedule a consultation today.