The pandemic has reached a very frightening point. Over 250,000 people have died from the coronavirus and daily we are setting new highs for how many new cases are diagnosed. We are also running out of hospital beds and the CDC is preparing us for a massive number of deaths over the next few weeks and the Holidays. As a result of the current situation, California is implementing shelter in place orders again.
Today’s teenagers have access to all this information via their smartphones. News updates pop up on their phones and once again their lives have been turned upside down due to the shelter in place orders. Teenagers are losing hope and wondering if their lives will ever return to normal. Teenagers are feeling overwhelmed and very stressed about how their lives have changed. Many college students and high school students are having to attend school remotely. Additionally, events such as sports, the prom and graduation ceremonies have already been cancelled. The high school experience they have heard about and have been waiting for no longer exists. Many teenagers are feeling depressed and angry about how their lives have changed. Furthermore, they have no control over the situation and have no idea what to expect from life.
Prior to the pandemic depression and anxiety rates were increasing for teenagers (CDC). Additionally, the suicide rate for teenagers had gone from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Since the pandemic and shelter in place orders depression and anxiety has reached epidemic levels for teenagers (CDC). The number of teenagers cutting (self-mutilating behavior) has increased significantly because they feel out of control and are having significant difficulties processing all the feelings they are experiencing. Also suicide rates and drug overdoses have increased in teenagers. Again because they feel helpless and are having significant difficulties processing their emotions.
Furthermore, besides their school experience changing significantly and not being able to hang out with friends, many are living in families who are worrying about paying the rent or having enough money for food. Unemployment is at a record high so many teenagers are living in a family where both parents have lost their jobs. This is a huge amount of stress for a child or teen to experience and have to cope with daily.
As a result, many teenagers are severely struggling with mental health issues due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, the Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found and their recommendations:
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.
Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.
When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it’s time to ask for help.
Get help when you need it
Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to:
• Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
• Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
• Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
• Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.
• Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.
If you’re feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
Continue your self-care strategies
You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won’t disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life’s ongoing challenges.
In addition to the facts above, people who have had the virus have been reporting feeling anxious and depressed. They have also reported the virus has impaired their ability to make decisions. This is being referred to as “the long haul syndrome.”The bottom line is the virus is creating mental health issues for those dealing with the quarantine, first responders, medical personnel and people with the virus. We are focusing on getting the virus under control which we must do. However, as we struggle to get control of the virus, we also need to address the mental health issues created by this pandemic. At this point, we have no idea how many will need mental health care and for how long. Therefore, as we focus on finding a cure, we may want to start to prepare for the mental health issues which are occurring and will after the quarantine.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating trauma victims and teenagers. For more information about his work or his private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.