New CDC data on teen mental health troubling
The Wall Street Journal reported on March 31, that “more than a third of U.S. high-school students reported that their mental health was poor during the Covid-19 pandemic, and 44 percent said they felt sad or hopeless, new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.”
While that is not shocking to me, it may come as a surprise to many people out there who are not proponents of mental health wellness.
What is the takeaway from this report? We can never allow our schools to be shut down again. Closing the schools closed students’ access to their friends, mental health counselors and activities that force their brains to work and stretch (also known as learning.) Teens no longer saw their teachers and they were cut off from regular schedules. All people crave routine to maintain some level of stability.
The CDC released the following data (CDC.gov):
• More than half (55 percent) reported they experienced emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting or putting down the student.
• Eleven percent experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting, beating, kicking, or physically hurting the student.
• More than a quarter (29 percent) reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.
The COVID-19 pandemic was terrible for everyone. But we have no idea of what the lasting impacts will be on minors, on those who don’t have fully-developed brains, on those who fear being judged for having mental health challenges and on those who don’t know how to ask for help for their big feelings.
We need to do better. And we need to be prepared for the next time government tries to cut us off from people for prolong periods of time.
“School connectedness is a key to addressing youth adversities at all times—especially during times of severe disruptions. Students need our support now more than ever, whether by making sure that their schools are inclusive and safe or by providing opportunities to engage in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults,” Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health Kathleen A. Ethier, PhD said in a release.
If you know a teen, reach out to them. Check in with them. Let them know you are there. And don’t be judgy. Goodness knows that’s what social media is for in 2022.
We need to support our schools and their efforts to destigmatize mental health care and seeking help for mental health issues.
I don’t want us to lose a student because they felt they had no support or couldn’t ask for help.
Gina Rullo is the editor-in-chief of The Hammonton Gazette and in 2021 won two awards for investigative journalism.