The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on teen mental health. In a national poll conducted in early 2021, parents reported that 31% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys experienced new or worsening depression during the pandemic.
Now, even as life starts moving closer to normal, many teens are still struggling emotionally. Here’s how to offer the support they need—and when to reach out for additional help.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Look for natural moments to strike up a conversation about how the pandemic has affected your family. Invite your teen to open up about the experience, and listen for sadness or anxiety. Such feelings may be signs that your teen could use extra support and attention right now.
Be aware that some teens pull away from their families when distressed. If that sounds familiar, try connecting with your teen over a shared activity you both enjoy. That might mean practicing yoga, riding bikes or going fishing, for instance. You’ll have a chance to check in about how things are going while having fun together.
If your child is still feeling cut off from some friends, suggest creative ways to bridge that divide. For example, your teen could organize a virtual movie or game night with buddies using an online platform like Zoom or Google Meet.
Stay Alert for Signs of Depression
It’s normal for your teen to go through emotional ups and downs, especially in trying times. True depression is more than ordinary moodiness, however. It’s a health condition that can wreak havoc on your child’s daily life.
Watch for these signs of depression:
- Long-lasting sadness, hopelessness, irritability or anxiety
- Disinterest in things your child once enjoyed
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Poor self-esteem
- Reduced concentration
- Drop in grades
- Restlessness or trouble sitting still
- Unusually slow movements
If you notice these warning signs, ask your child’s healthcare provider to screen your teen for depression. Seek help immediately for any talk of suicide by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).