Staff Editorial: Teenagers must take care of their mental health

Social distancing is not helping teens’ mental health. The forced isolation is increasing anxiety and depression for everybody, but teenagers are especially impacted.

A Suicide Prevention Resource Center article “Consequences of Student Mental Health Issues” referenced the American College Health Association 2015 survey National College Health Assessment II: Spring 2015 reference group on the increase of mental health affecting their academics. 

According to the survey, “College students identified the following mental health issues as negatively impacting their academic performance within the last 12 months: Stress (30% of students), Anxiety (22%), Sleep difficulties (20%), Depression (14%).”

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention article “Coping with Stress” gave a list of things to do to help cope.

According to the article, “Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat  healthy, well-balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use. Continue with routine preventive measures, such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc., as recommended by your healthcare provider. Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when available. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.”

While social distancing can decrease mental health, the safety of it is just as important to bring up. The two issues can and should be brought up together without one canceling out the other.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s article “Social Distancing” states, “Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least six feet away from others when possible, even if you, or they, do not have any symptoms.”

An online questionnaire survey was given to children and adolescents aged 7 to18 years during the spread of COVID-19 in China from Duan L, Shao X and Wang Y’s “An investigation of mental health status of children and adolescents in China during the outbreak of COVID-19 and was analyzed in the Psychiatric Times article “New Findings About Children’s Mental Health During COVID-19.”

The questionnaire “included a depression scale, an anxiety scale, and a coping style scale. It showed 22.3% of youth had scores indicative of clinical depressive symptoms, which is higher than the 13.2% estimated prevalence of youth depression in China.”

Additional research is needed to assess the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 on children’s overall mental health, but it is predicted to have lasting impacts.

According to the researchers from China, “loneliness for youth during the disease containment measures for COVID-19 may affect the future mental health of youth. They recommend preventive support and early intervention to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While social distancing and social isolation is important to help slow and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it is damaging to students’ mental stability. It is important for students to still take care of themselves and watch for increases in mood changes.