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Overcoming stigma: How to deal with teen’s mental health

As the pandemic continues, teens are having increased feelings of loneliness. Seven out of ten are struggling with their mental health and the pandemic has only made it worse. Some tactics you can use to help them cope.
As the pandemic continues, teens are having increased feelings of loneliness. Seven out of ten are struggling with their mental health and the pandemic has only made it worse. Some tactics you can use to help them cope.

COVID shutdowns have not only greatly impacted children’s schooling, but also their mental health.

A survey of teens ages 13 to 19 found seven out of 10 teens are struggling with their mental health in the wake of COVID-19 and more than half said the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness.

Julia Byrne, 15, loves playing the trumpet. But her parents’ divorce and a move across the country made some much-loved activities a little less exciting.

“I just isolated myself and kept myself from doing things that I would enjoy because I thought I didn’t deserve them,” Byrne shared.

Then COVID-19 happened, and she was forced to be even more isolated.

“Which has just been hard, and it’s contributed to me being suicidal for some time,” Byrne said.

Byrne was not alone.

“This isolation is causing a lot of issues for teens,” said Ian Adair, executive director at Gracepoint Foundation.

Forty-three percent of teens say they have experienced depression, 45% have experienced excessive stress, and 55% experienced anxiety due to the pandemic. So, what can parents do?

“We have to empathize. We have to listen, actively listen to what’s going on,” said Adair.

Create a safe space where your teen can talk and don’t be afraid to ask your teen if they’re thinking about hurting themselves.

“There’s a stigma that if you talk about suicide, then that might increase the opportunity for kids to attempt suicide or think about suicide, when research says it’s the exact opposite,” Adair said.

Adair normalizes talking about mental health in his book, ’'Stronger Than Stigma,” and he said when parents normalize the conversation ...

“You rationalize it. When you talk about it, you make it something you can work out,” Adair said.

Exercising and talking to a therapist have turned things around for Byrne.

“It was able to help me focus on my mental health and finally start to pick myself up from that spiral,” Byrne said with a smile.

Allowing her to tune in to more positive notes.

Parents can take a mental health test to see if their teen might be struggling with mental health issues at mhascreening.org. Share the results with your teen afterward to get the conversation started.