Youth Mental Health Crisis Further Exposed by COVID-19 Pandemic

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teen mental health crisis

Over the last two years we have witnessed a teen mental health crisis. Learn about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on teens.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on our youth. Just last month the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, issued a press release about this serious problem. The press release focused on the mental health crisis among U.S. children, teens and young adults.

It is good that the government health officials are sounding the alarm about the teen mental health crisis. As it rightly states in the release, “The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation.”

Parents and teachers witness teen despair and hopelessness on a daily basis, and are rightly alarmed. Self-harm and suicide rates have increased in recent years, with the effects of the pandemic pushing them higher. Read on to learn more about the impact of these past two years on America’s youth.

Teen Mental Health Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 event there was already a rise in teen mental health disorders. Young people were showing signs of strain, both socially and emotionally. There were some common sources for the feelings of stress or depression, which had been a cause of concern for parents. These were such things as school stress, bullying, social media shaming, increasing sense of isolation, gender issues, and loneliness.

When the pandemic struck and lockdowns ensued, it only intensified these stressors. For an entire school year, youths were prevented from living a normal teen life. Many fell behind in school, lost precious athletic opportunities, and felt isolated from friends.

Even as the nation opened up in the summer of 2021, it did not erase the year of emotional struggles and angst. Studies were published in late 2021, which reported the worrisome data—our teens are in crisis.

Teen Crisis Statistics

The stress placed on young people was bound to show up in data, which quantified it, shining the light on the teen mental health crisis. Here are just some of the data points:

  • During 2021 ER visits rose 51% for female teens due to suicide attempts.
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic.
  • Higher rates of mental health issues during the pandemic among low-income, disabled, and LGBTQ teens.

Signs of Teen Mental Health Disorders

The pandemic has been shown now to have fully disrupted the health and wellbeing of many, but mostly young people. At a time in life when they should be forward focused on reaching for their goals and dreams, they were hindered. The usual rites of passage, like going to prom or walking up to get a diploma, were nixed.

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Most teens spent much more time online. They either disappeared into a fantasy world through online gaming or spent copious hours on social media. Neither of these is healthy in such large doses.

As a result, parents have noticed the signs of distress in their teens these past two years. Here are some of the mental health issues that stand out as being much more pervasive during COVID:

Anxiety Symptoms

  • Intense feelings of worry, dread, and fear.
  • Mood swings.
  • Extreme irritability.
  • Restlessness
  • GI distress.
  • Insomnia
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Muscle tension.
  • Trembling
  • Racing heart.
  • Sweating
  • Trouble concentrating.

Depression Symptoms

  • Feeling sad or hopeless.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Changes in eating habits; sudden weight gain or loss.
  • Fatigued, listless.
  • Loss of interest in usual hobbies.
  • Irritable; angry outbursts
  • Withdraws from friends and family.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Sensitive to peer rejection or being criticized.
  • Trouble paying attention in school.
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches.
  • Talks about death, suicidal thoughts.

Self-Harming Symptoms

  • Blood stains on clothing, towels, or carpet.
  • Unexplained scars, bruises, or wounds.
  • Isolating from family and friends.
  • Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for hot weather.
  • Frequent “accidents.”
  • Missing patches of hair.
  • Finding sharp objects in the person’s personal room or bathroom.
  • Finding remnants of candle wax on the carpet.

Suicide Symptoms

  • Rash or impulsive behaviors.
  • Being more withdrawn.
  • Gives away their prized possessions.
  • Angry outbursts, rage, or violent behaviors.
  • Feel they have no purpose in life.
  • Obsessed with death and suicide.
  • Chronic sleep problems.
  • Change in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Exhibits feelings of shame, guilt, excessive worry, or grief.
  • Stops engaging in activities once enjoyed.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Obtaining the means to complete suicide, such as weapon or pills.

How to Help Your Teen

If you begin to notice the signs of a mental health issue in your teen, do not ignore it. The problem will not just go away on its own, and to ignore it may result in a worse outcome. The teen needs to be assessed by a mental health expert who can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

In more serious cases, such as severe depression or threats of suicide, parents should consider a higher level of care. A residential teen mental health treatment program can provide a more intensive treatment approach.

Residential treatment offers the distressed teen a chance to work through any mental health challenge within a safe, supportive setting. Treatment involves a multi-pronged approach:

  • One-on-one talk therapy.
  • Peer group therapy sessions.
  • Experiential therapy.
  • Holistic therapy.
  • Academic support.

One of the main benefits of a residential program is that the teen is able to remove him or herself from the stressors for a time. This allows the teen to focus on healing without distractions.

The teen mental health crisis has become a front and center concern in the US. If your teen’s mental health has suffered during the pandemic, there is help available to them.

BNI Treatment Centers for Teen Residential Mental Health Treatment

BNI Treatment Centers provides a full-spectrum evidence-based mental health program for teens. Our caring team is here to help your son or daughter. If your teen is showing signs of mental distress, our doctor-owned and operated program can offer hope. Call us today at (888) 522-1504.

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