Improving Teens’ Mental Health During COVID-19


COVID-19 is a new virus that emerged and forced the world into a pandemic. It spreads via the respiratory system through the air and close contact. Older people, especially the elderly, are at risk. Although children and adolescents are less at risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, the pandemic has disrupted their lives, impacting their well-being. Social distancing and the drastic change of school schedules have proven to be a great challenge for students’ mental health.


How Is the Pandemic Affecting Teenagers?

New school routines, constantly being trapped inside, and not being allowed to meet with friends have negatively affected teens. During the teenage years, the brain releases hormones and signals which make teens want increased social interaction. Teens are meant to develop social skills, empathy, and their own identity. These activities occur when teens interact with their friends, peers, teachers, and others in the outside world. Not surprisingly, most teens’ social interactions occur within school.


Schools are more than a place for learning. They serve as social and mental outlets from students’ homes. Social distancing requirements have forced schools to create new schedules and routines. Some schools are online, have limited people in person, hybrid, or a mixture of all of them. Consequently, teachers are forced to find different teaching methods to deliver information properly in order for students to receive the same education. Even if teachers happen to do that, there will still be struggles with students trying to learn because social interaction is a key factor in education and everyone learns differently. This leads students to attempt and teach themselves, and that might not work out for them. As a result, their grades and academic performances suffer. When students do come back in person, they will suffer not only academic setbacks but also emotional and social setbacks as well. With the lack of social interaction, teens will suffer when everyone returns to social settings.


Because of the need to socially distance, teens are deprived of face-to-face social interaction. Over time, that takes a toll on their well-being because feelings of loneliness, social isolation, and sadness start to develop and worsen. Some adolescents may turn to dangerous activities to cope, which worsens their health. In turn, that affects their relationship with those they are living with, and most importantly, themselves.


Teens have lost school structure, may have a lack of parental support, and rely on their own judgment. This can lead to irregular sleeping/eating schedules and a feeling of loss of control over their lives, which can impact their school performances, family relationships, and mental health. In the midst of the chaos, they turn to their phones.


Mobile Devices and How They Take Part in the Pandemic

Now more than ever, teens use their phones to interact with their friends and family members.

More important than the amount of screen time is the type of screen time. That may be a concern for parents, which might lead them to try and restrict phone usage. However, screen time is different depending on how a teen uses it. After all, using it to talk to friends is different than using it to interact with bad influences online. Parents should ensure that their teens are using their phones in healthy ways because they depend on phones to talk with their friends.



Solutions For Keeping Mental Health In Check


While teachers and counselors are doing their best to help students in this time, it still proves to be a difficult situation. Many teens are experiencing an increase in their sense of isolation, depression, and loneliness. Online schoolwork, new responsibilities, including childcare, housework, and part-time jobs, and the mere stress of being in a pandemic puts additional pressure on teens to live a balanced life. Their lives and mental health can very easily fall apart at any moment, so it is important to find ways to relieve the problem.

Some solutions include:


  • Create structure and a schedule. It may not be what teens want at the moment, but it could help.

  • Connect with mental health resources either through the school or in the community. Receiving help and support during these times would help teens a lot with managing their emotions and life.

  • Find coping mechanisms: Teens can find healthy coping skills, like meditation, counseling, and exercise.

  • Stay connected with friends virtually. Teens can reach out to friends through virtual platforms to stay in touch and maintain social connections.

  • Spend time with family. spending time with family members helps teens’ mental health and improves family dynamics.






Sources

“How Is COVID-19 Affecting Student Learning?” Google, Google, www.google.com/amp/s/www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/12/03/how-is-covid-19-affecting-student-learning/amp/.

“The Impact of COVID-19 on High School Students.” The Impact of COVID-19 on High School Students – Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, www.childandadolescent.org/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-high-school-students/.

Report • By Emma García and Elaine Weiss • September 10. “COVID-19 and Student Performance, Equity, and U.S. Education Policy: Lessons from Pre-Pandemic Research to Inform Relief, Recovery, and Rebuilding.” Economic Policy Institute, www.epi.org/publication/the-consequences-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-for-education-performance-and-equity-in-the-united-states-what-can-we-learn-from-pre-pandemic-research-to-inform-relief-recovery-and-rebuilding/.

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