SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – The coronavirus is taking an emotional toll on teenagers. In fact, seven in ten teens say they’ve struggled with their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colby Peck was thriving — playing lacrosse, acting, taking campus leadership roles, and hanging out with friends, when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her life.
“It’s like a lethargy. Everything blurs together,” Peck said.
She felt more than the typical teenaged moodiness.
“It’s been anxiety that leads to insomnia. And because I have insomnia, I’m not getting enough sleep, which results in more anxiety, and then you just fall into a slump or it’s never ending,” she described.
In fact, 6 in 10 teenagers polled nationwide say they have experienced loneliness during the pandemic. It’s no surprise, since they also report spending three-quarters of their waking hours on screens, for everything from education to entertainment.
A Harris Poll taken for the National 4-H Council in May shows more than half of teenagers surveyed have felt anxiety. Just less than half have felt excessive stress and 43 percent have struggled with depression.
Alexis Becerra is a licensed marriage and family therapist.
“So of course, teens go through changes, but it’s the drastic change,” Becerra said.
She gave a list of symptoms to look for. “Is the teen no longer engaging with peers? Having changes in appetite and weight, extreme worry or preoccupation with perfectionism, no longer engaging in activities that brought them joy?”
Alexis advises parents to connect with their teens.
“I’d go to them first, and listen. I’d encourage them to engage with their peers, and encourage them to get outside, move your body, even if it’s as a family activity, going out for walks, bike rides, releasing some of that energy,” she said.
Both Becerra and Peck reach out to teens with mental health struggles through the non-profit organization ‘Bring Change 2 Mind’ and have 260 high school clubs nationwide. Currently, they are on summer break but students check in with each other, sharing texts, “quaran-teen” tips, and live virtual events featuring celebrity guests like NBA player Kevin Love.
Program associate Marjess Germono says lots of teens are logging on.
“So we really want to make sure we are providing resources are easily accessible, easy to read, so we’ve been putting a lot of that together,” Germono said.
As for Peck, she’s taken up new hobbies — crocheting and calligraphy in the company of new kittens.
“It’s ways to explore new parts of you that you never would have been able to do in a traditional setting,” she smiled.
And as students prepare for the uncertainty and potential anxiety of the months to come, she shares this simple message with her peers:
“You’re not alone,” she said.