A lost year? Teens struggle with mental health during COVID pandemic

The pandemic has had a serious impact on just about everyone, but especially on teens and young people, who have spent over a year learning remotely and unable to gather and see friends the way they would have before the pandemic.

Nayelis Arias, a junior at Beacon High School in Hell's Kitchen, has been learning from home since the pandemic began, fearing in-person school would be too dangerous since she lives with her grandmother. But her choice meant adjusting to long hours of social isolation as well as transforming her bedroom into her classroom.

"Having to turn my home into the place where I learn was definitely a hard transition, but I had no choice but to adjust," Arias said.

Like so many teenagers the pandemic has taken a toll on her mental health.

"I definitely do think I got more anxious," Arias said.

Daniel Shannon, a senior at Millennium high school in Manhattan, has also opted for remote learning only.

"I was bored and I was lonely I had some really great friends at Millenium and I missed them," Shannon said.

Shannon said he took his mental health problems into his own hands, literally, beginning to regularly go to the park alone to practice soccer. The exercise improved his game and his attitude.

"Getting really focused in my soccer and through that I was able cope with being isolated and being alone for long periods of time," Shannon said.

Nayelis and Daniel are experiencing what so many teenagers have been enduring. A University of Michigan - C.S. Mott Children's Hospital national poll shows that one in three teenage girls and one in five teenage boys said they had new or worsening anxiety since March of 2020.

The CDC reported that mental health-related hospital emergency department visits among adolescents started increasing in April of 2020 in teens ages 12 to 17. 

Erica Komisar is a psychoanalyst, parent guidance expert, and author says the pandemic has hit teenagers especially hard. 

"Teenagers who are doing the worst in this time of COVID are the ones where there were family interpersonal stressors in the home to begin with," Komisar said.

She suggests parents lower expectations for teens especially when it comes to grades. 

"I think we all have to reduce our expectations. The pressure that these kids are under to achieve, even during COVID, take that pressure off of them. If they don't do so well in school this year that's okay."

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