How Covid-19 Has Amplified the Mental Health Crisis Among Teenagers

How+Covid-19+Has+Amplified+the+Mental+Health+Crisis+Among+Teenagers

Alyssa Rask, Staff Writer

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That number represents how many lives suicide claimed in 2018 amongst children and teenagers. With the rates of suicides rising among young adults, depression and anxiety rates have dramatically increased by nearly 20% from 2007 to 2012.

However, there is no indication of these numbers decreasing anytime soon due to one factor: Covid-19. A recent survey performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed anxiety and depression rates among teenagers in 2020 is a high they have never seen before. “We were calling this a mental health crisis before the pandemic. Now it’s a state of emergency,” said Amir Whitaker, policy counsel of the ACLU of Southern California. The United States of America is not only facing a deadly pandemic but a nationwide mental health crisis that is killing this country’s youth.

As schools began to open their doors since that eerie March 13th day, many schools across the nation responded differently to this new way of learning: 52% of districts in the United States offer hybrid learning, while 22% of districts are offering online instruction only.

However, over 60% of teenagers feel that online learning is “much worse” than in-person instruction—but why? “Because of online learning, it has become harder to get mental health support,” said Sean Burns, a SWMHS student. Out of the 16% of children who receive mental health services, 70%-80% acquire those critical services from schools. Due to the shutdown of in-school instruction across the country, many students will endure a lack of support and treatment for their mental health.

Though, many districts offer telemedicine options, which is an online alternative for patients and providers to communicate, over 4.4 million households don’t have consistent access to computers, while 3.3 million families nationwide lack Wi-Fi access.

This digital divide is not only affecting mental health support—it is affecting how children in this country are receiving an education. In April of 2020, Pew Research Center conducted a survey that showed 1 out of 5 children will not be able to complete school work because they do not have access to a computer; in addition, 21% of children must use public Wi-Fi because they do not have access to Wi-Fi at home.

“Having restrictions on whether you can see family and friends has been rather tough,” said Sean. Surveys done throughout the pandemic have shown 30%-60% of youth and adults have experienced increased feelings of loneliness. When schools shut down suddenly in March, teenagers faced the battle of leaving behind their social lives and grappling with the “new” normal. Doctors say that with the increased feelings of loneliness and isolation comes higher rates of anxiety and depression— and in some cases, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

While teenagers had to adjust to this “new” normal, they also had to face a new fear— contracting Covid-19. Rose Isreal, who currently resides in East Harlem, is the mother of 6-year-old Jeremiah, who battles anxiety about going back to school in these unprecedented times. “No Mama, I don’t wanna go to school, I’m not going to school, they will kill me. I don’t want to die,” said Jeremiah to his mother about returning to school. A study completed by the University of Oxford showed that 53% of adolescents fear their loved ones contracting the deadly virus.