TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The COVID-19 pandemic affected teen’s mental health on a level that experts had never seen before.
The effects of being away from peers, and school transitioning to virtual across the country in 2020 changed how adolescents lived their everyday lives.
“A lot of teenagers are very peer-oriented. Their lives revolve around their friends, and so when they couldn’t go to school and they weren’t being able to see their friends, it really kind of created a level of depression,” said Rebekah Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor with Tyler Therapy.
Some East Texas high school students said it was difficult for them to remain positive in such uncertain times.
Molly Frazier, Mount Enterprise High School student, said, “I just felt bored. I just stopped reading and doing things I usually do… like sports and working out.”
Students at Mount Enterprise ISD felt a sense of excitement when they prepared to return to in-person classes this fall.
Kimberly Fryman, teacher at Mount Enterprise ISD, said, “We were all back in the ‘yay normal school year’ mode. ‘This is going to be great. We’re going to do things like we used to do before all this started,’ and then all of a sudden, oh no, we’re not.“
Effects on teens
A few weeks after the school year started, Mount Enterprise ISD canceled classes due to a COVID surge. Students told KETK that it brought them down.
“Some of my friends started crying and we all were just like, so sad and beat down about it,” said Hannah Everett, high school senior.
Tiffenii Mumphrey, a teacher at Carlisle Senior High School, said that the constant change is also affecting her students.
“You have the social media, you have the technology and now with, you know, COVID coming into play. It’s just one more kind of like thing that’s thrown at them,” said Mumphrey.
The past year has been tough for adolescents. The CDC reported that 12 to 17-year-olds visited the emergency departments for mental health issues over 30% more in 2020 than in the year before.
The unknown about what will happen in the near future has made it hard for teens.
“One of the things that helps with anxiety is being able to prepare and plan. COVID has rocked that. It’s really hard to prepare and plan when everything’s constantly changing,” said Erin Young, Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Teachers told KETK that it is hard to keep their sense of control with the future being so uncertain.
“Students realize just as much as we do that we’re in uncharted territory,” said Jeff Belgardt, teacher at Mount Enterprise ISD.
How parents can help
Walker said the best thing for parents is to tell their children that they will work through it together.
“Sometimes being able to say I don’t have an answer for you, but no matter what, we’ll figure it out together is very powerful,” said Walker.
Whether it is events being cancelled, students calling out sick or lessons being out of sync, Fryman said that they try to keep things positive.
KETK has organized a list of resources for parents to help them support their teens’ mental health. From depression to anxiety and the causes of both, we have you covered with resources and the tools you need to stay informed, just click the link below.