It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it. Many families across the country have been living in “survival mode.” Tweens and teens continue to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and fear. If left unresolved, these feelings can take a toll on health and well-being.
When it comes to teens’ emotional and mental health, they are experiencing a crisis, says Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Even before the pandemic, more than 16% of youth in the United States dealt with a mental health disorder, according to a 2019 study in JAMA Pediatrics.
Bracho-Sanchez, who often treats families in Latino and Black communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, says the pandemic created the perfect storm of emotional turbulence. “Families are experiencing a lot of stress. Many have lost jobs. They’ve fallen behind on rent. The rates of food insecurity have skyrocketed. All of these things are really hard for everyone in the family—teens included.” Add to these issues virtual schooling, fear of family members getting sick or dying from COVID, feeling isolated and disconnected—it’s no wonder doctors are seeing higher levels of anxiety and depression in teens.
Understand what teens are going through
The first step toward supporting young people through this challenging time is for caring adults to have empathy for the teen experience. And to work to understand how their developmental stage impacts their emotional well-being.
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