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  • Writer's pictureJulio Avael

Adolescent Vulnerability to Mental Health Issues During Pandemic School Closures

While the true cost of the global pandemic on mental health will not be felt for perhaps generations, there is little doubt that it had an immediate and long-lasting effect on adolescents.

School closures, separation from friends, and a lack of resources for particularly vulnerable youths to access have contributed to a rise in concern of professionals and family members for adolescents. But what is the current state, and how is the problem being tackled? In the following article Julio Avael discusses adolescent vulnerability to mental health issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A “Cry for Help” Among Young People

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that “more than a third of high school students” admitted to poor mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, with nearly half of those polled adding that they “persistently” felt hopeless or sad.

Such issues were exacerbated by lockdown mandates forcing young people to live with one or more abusive parent. LGBT youths reported higher levels of anxiety and depression as a result.

The results point to a need for schools to do more to remain in contact with students who were not only isolated during the pandemic but who carry residual mental illness. But schools cannot work alone to address these complex problems, so the question remains as to how vulnerable adolescents can receive support.

A Problem Before the Pandemic

There is little doubt the pandemic exacerbated mental health issue in teens, but the problem was already there, reports CNN. With figures suggesting that a fifth of high school students already struggle with mental illness, the pandemic merely added to an already existing problem.

Dr. John Walkup, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, suggests that figures are much higher in adolescent females than in males.

Stating that “more girls have needed help that hasn’t been there in the last two years”, he remains optimistic for the future so long as parents recognize the signs in their children and seek professional help early, with or without a pandemic.

More than Places of Learning

Shutting schools closed off children and teens from a vital part of their growth, an article in this week’s edition of The Atlantic reports.

By closing schools in the pandemic, youths were cut off from welfare protection, occupational therapy, and more, along with the social and cultural hubs of their communities.

For those in lower socioeconomic areas, undoubtedly hit even harder from school closure, lessons were often stopped altogether as many youths had no access to online facilities. This led to months of zero schooling altogether for many, while those with elite, private facilities felt much less of an impact.

With figures in the article highlighting that 94% of students reporting to school guidance counselors that they felt increased anxiety and depression during the pandemic, it has been highlighted just how crucial physical presence in schools is when it comes to adolescent wellbeing.

With calls for a “more resilient system to meet future challenges”, it is evident that more support needs to be given to schools who in turn provide vital support to their students.

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