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  • Greg Smith

Julio Avael Discusses the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Adolescent Mental Health

Within the past few years, mental health professionals have reported concerning mental health trends amongst adolescents in the United States. In 2017, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 13.3% of US adolescents between the ages of 12-15 had experienced at least one major depressive episode during that year; however, 60.1% of these teens did not receive any treatment for their mental illness. Throughout his career, behavioral health professional Julio Avael III has worked to improve mental health resources for American youth. Julio Avael recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted American mental health, however, hopes to stress the lack of mental health resources provided to American adolescent during the past year’s events and the actual toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent mental health.

Less Access to Resources

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States experienced nationwide school closures as many school districts asked students to move to online learning. However, because of this change, the 3.5 million students receiving mental health services from their school district were not able to access frequent mental health screenings. These services were often the only source of mental health support for many students, especially those within low-income households and racial minority groups.

Increased time with Caregiver

Julio Avael III believes that one of the most significant impacts on adolescents and youth mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic was the increased amount of time spent with caregivers. As millions of American adults were laid off during the early months of the pandemic, caregivers were often dealing with the stress of unemployment, fear of infection, and other mental stresses. Due to quarantine requirements and social distancing orders, some youth were forced to spend a large amount of time indoors with abusive caregivers in dysfunctional households. According to psychiatrist Cecile Rousseau MD, during COVID-19, the risk of child maltreatment increased due to parental stress and the absence of third-party observance within a school or daycare environment.

Increase in Suicide Rates

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly 18 months ago, US hospitals have reported alarming increases in attempted and completed suicide among teens. Health care professionals and pediatric doctors who have treated some of these patients have described patients as having worse mental states compared to patients seen before the pandemic. This trend shows the necessity of youth outreach and mental health resources during nationwide emergencies.

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