The teenage demographic is already at high risk of having poor mental health due to the changes occurring in their brain during this period of life. When one throws a global pandemic into the mix, the effects can be devastating. In recent years, society has begun to shine a light on mental health, making its importance known. Yet, the lack of mental health resources is a common complaint heard from parents around the globe.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the problem worse. When it first hit, without warning, there was an immediate halt to in-person learning. This led teens to miss their friends, yearn to leave the house, and to develop erratic sleep habits. Many also had to deal with the anxieties felt when a family member is sick or even dead along with extreme financial uncertainty.
“30 percent of parents have said that their child’s emotional or mental health is suffering due to school closures and that ‘they don’t feel like getting up,’” said USA Today.
“Adolescence is a critical period during which social experience is sculpting the brain,” says Neuroscientist Shannon L. Gourley of Emory University.when questioned on the topic in an article about the lasting effects social isolation can have on our teenagers.
Young brains develop by forming neuron connections, Later, ie in the teenage years, these connections then die if they are not actively being used. To put it simply, when it comes to social skills you must “use it or lose it.” There are strong correlations between isolation and depression, anxiety, and the vulnerability to developing post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no question that due to social distancing, the added anxiety of teenagers is putting their health at risk.
As our teens are being sent home to continue their education. They are personally being asked to increase their screen time by about six hours. This is occurring despite how in other countries childhood screen addiction is considered a clinical disorder. The number of negative effects caused by excessive screen time can easily be considered disturbing. Just to list a few that have been proven; sleep deprivation, common aches and pains that are so common they’ve been coined with clinical names such as text thumb and iPhone neck, lack of social skills and increased social anxiety, as well as expected aggression. more information and evidence to these ideas can be found at habyts- negative effects of excessive screen time. UC Berkeley also deemed this problem significant enough to highlight by publishing information related to the effects screens can have on our growing teens in the article Berkeley Edu- toxicity of screen time on teenagers. As well as depression, anxiety, and suicide, becoming spacey, despondent, irritable, and aggressive, can be expected when our teens spend an excessive amount of time staring at their screens. It’s important to give a note of the fact that our teens are facing an ultimatum in this situation. They can either continue their education, get good grades, and have help in giving them a better future, but at what costs. To do so our teens will be risking their mental health, social skills, and even their lives. UC Berkeley put it into simple terms by clarifying, ” Teens who spend more time on-screen activities are more likely to be unhappy.”
Now even with the isolation and added screen time, our teens are still being exposed to the anxiety-raising headlines found plastered over every news source in the media right now. It seems that everywhere we turn we find, high death counts, virus spread, and county-wide shutdowns. After a while this can start to instill fear in our teens or cause them to become emotionally numb, it’s difficult to decide which is worse but both can be deemed unsettling. This constant flow of information can be beneficial to a degree and we must know where to draw the line. If we don’t then our teens will then become “wired” a term that’s been coined as describing the anxiety one can experience from a never-ending stream of bad news. This on-going stream can lead to the idea of potential danger, rightfully so, but still devastating and raising anxiety causing hormones. This increase in hormones will directly correlate to the presence of paranoia and irrational fear. With teens, the irrationality of it all is ever more present due to their naturally irrational behaviors, which will only further the increase of paranoia and anxiety. This can be seen by the trusted federation anxiety.org in their article for help in processing threatening stimuli Anxiety.org- overcoming fear from stressful news headlines
As members of San Pasqual High School, all of this negative information can be overwhelming and blatantly depressing. In efforts to showcase the help that has been made available to our community. After taking the liberty to reach out to two staff members, it was clear to see that every single teacher and counselor cares. When speaking to San Pasqual guidance counselor Vivian Rendon, many troubling occurrences were brought up but along with that, it was obvious that our school is actively working and adapting to better any programs to provide for every student’s needs. The counseling department has noticed a sudden increase in the help needed by students. When asked about what was contributing to the added stress students are facing, Rendon replied with how some of our students have begun to take on the role of parenting younger siblings, but now it is harder for those same students to get help themselves. At this point, Rendon shined a light on how she has been feeling by mentioning, ” I have to take care of myself if I want to be able to take care of others.” When asking San Pasqual’s social worker, Geraldine O’Sullivan, for her thoughts about the root cause of the increase in help needed, she had explained that there is so much going on in our world right now that it’s clear to see that the problem is not just one thing but a whole combination of things piling up and then having an even more dramatic effect, then if it were individual issues.
When our school realized the severity of all the needs of every student. The counseling department took the initiative of providing new resources that have been molded for online learning while taking care of teenager’s mental health. Alongside a team of computer programmers, our counseling department created an amazing virtual wellness center. Anyone can access this wellness center by simply scanning the QR code made available in the image, at the end of this article. Here students can find resources to our counseling department, along with helpful activities that have one’s well being as their core value. The center is quite useful and inclusive by having resources for LGBTQ, abuse, healthy relationships, and hotlines for depression and suicide. Once a student reaches out for help, our school works to make sure one receives any help they’ll need. This is done by home visits with child services, performing interventions, as well as safe, social activities. Now our counseling department is always looking for students who need help by having mandated reporters, monitoring their participation, and the content of their work. However, the most effective way for one to receive the help that is needed is for them to ask for it. It has become shockingly easy to arrange an appointment by either scheduling through our school website via sphsgoldeneagles- find your counselor’s contact information, this link will lead directly to a chart that shows who one’s counselor is, and their counselor’s contact information. After consulting all of the negative effects that the circumstances of this year have had on our growing teens, the important thing is to be responsible for one’s well being and get the help one needs. For every San Pasqual student, there are teachers and staff members that care and want to keep our student body healthy and thriving. Please never hesitate to get the help that is needed. We are here for you, we are San Pasqual. United we soar.