The past two years has been majorly disruptive for all of us. We’ve lost both jobs and people we love. We’ve been disconnected from our support systems. But as more people get vaccinated and life-as-normal begins to open up again, a “second pandemic” has been gathering strength in the shadows.
Emerging reports are showing us that children, adolescents, and young adults have been severely affected by Covid-19. Although most young people have statistically been at low-risk for serious infection and complications from Covid-19, something perhaps more precious has been damaged: their mental health. This “second pandemic” is so serious that some people are raising the alarm for a global adolescent mental health crisis.
The numbers: Covid-19 youth mental health statistics
There’s no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected adolescent mental health. The research now shows us some alarming youth mental health statistics, like:
- 70% of youth report that the pandemic has affected their mental health negatively
- All around the world, mental health and wellbeing in adolescence has been affected in similar ways
- Anxiety and depression in young people have doubled during the pandemic
- Around one in five young people are now experiencing high levels of anxiety and/or depression (vs. around one in 10 pre-pandemic)
- Girls and older adolescents are the most affected
- Nearly half of all youth say they have less motivation to do things that they used to enjoy
- Mental health and suicide admissions in some pediatric hospitals have doubled
- Hospital admissions for substance abuse have gone up around 200%
- Suicidal thoughts in teens have gone up over 50%; one school district in Las Vegas has lost 18 students to suicide since the start of the pandemic.
- Around 75% of young people felt the need to reach out for help because of their mental health, but two out of five of the young people who needed help didn’t ask for it.
- Even emotionally well-adjusted adolescents with no early life stress or trauma are experiencing worse mental health during the pandemic.
Why has adolescent mental health been affected by Covid-19?
We’ve all struggled during the pandemic, and one could argue that teenagers – who mostly have their basic needs taken care of by their parents – had it easier than their parents, who had to worry about finances and caretaking. Why has adolescent mental health been so severely affected by this pandemic?
There are lots of different reasons for this, and researchers are still conducting studies to learn more.
One obvious reason is the lack loss of socialization, peer support, and connection that youth usually find at school. Lockdown has been hard on all of us, but especially hard on young people, who are very likely to rely on their friends for emotional support.
Developmentally, teens have a need to create their own individual identity and separate themselves, little by little, from their parents. The pandemic has severely limited adolescents’ ability to do that by keeping them locked inside all day, largely unable to explore their own interests. Being in isolation or quarantine, in one study, resulted in 30% of children developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
On top of that, going to school is critical for another reason: mental health screening. It’s hard for young people to get connected to mental health support on their own, and schools and colleges often act as a referral point for vulnerable teens.
In fact, for some of the most vulnerable teens, school might be the only referral point for services. With this support system gone, many young people aren’t getting connected to the mental health services they need — which has resulted in the mental health crisis that we’re seeing now.
Adolescents are also vulnerable to the stressful things that their families are going through. Maybe a parent lost their job or a grandparent became sick with Covid-19. Maybe the pervasive fear of infection has emotionally affected the family. Relationship conflicts can also result from the entire family being in close proximity all the time.
All of these things are factors that have had severe impacts on adolescent mental health.
Does my teenager need counseling?
It’s natural to be worried about your teen’s mental health, especially during such a difficult time. Many of the emotional reactions, including some symptoms of depression and anxiety, that your teen is going through right now might be natural, human responses to the grief and fear that the entire world is facing.
However, some symptoms might be signs that your adolescent child needs professional mental health support. Look out for signs like:
- Changes in mood, or mood swings, that are unusual for your teen
- A loss of interest in the activities they usually enjoy
- Having sleep problems (either not being able to sleep or sleeping too much)
- Changes in appetite
- Isolating themselves from personal relationships that you know are important to them, like drifting away from their friends, for example
- Separation anxiety, or not wanting to ever be apart from you
- Signs that they haven’t practiced basic self-care, like showering or brushing their hair
- Signs that they may be using drugs or alcohol
- Suicidal thoughts, behaviors, or feelings
These are all signs that your teen might be experiencing clinical depression and needs professional support. If your teen lets you know that their mental health is suffering, take them seriously. Never brush them off, even if they don’t display any of the other signs of depression. Talk openly with your child and ask them how you can best support them.
If you think your teen is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK or get in touch with the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘TALK’ to 741741.
Is TMS therapy safe for teens?
For teens who are facing symptoms of depression and anxiety, whether or not it’s because of the pandemic, there’s hope. There are many different treatments available for teen depression that have been shown to work, including psychotherapy, medication, and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS therapy, is an effective, innovative, and FDA-approved treatment that’s helped thousands of people get past their depression and start living the life they deserve.
Although it’s still considered “off-label” for minors, TMS therapy is safe and effective for teens, and our experienced staff at Southern Colorado TMS have expertise in delivering this treatment for this age group. Lots of teens have trouble with more traditional treatment methods, like psychotherapy and medication. Maybe they don’t connect with or trust their therapist, or they don’t like the way medication makes them feel.
In these scenarios, TMS therapy could be an ideal choice for treatment. TMS is a non-invasive procedure that comes with mild side effects, and can offer a glimmer of hope to people who’ve tried first line treatments for depression without success.
If you’re interested in the possibility of TMS therapy for your teen, contact us today to see what we can do for you. We’re the longest established TMS clinic in Colorado Springs, and we’ve seen fantastic results for our patients who have struggled for years with depression with no improvement. TMS could be the answer that your teen is looking for after a stressful and chaotic year.