Kacee Tannenbaum, LCSW
COVID-19, Depression, and Teens
Everyone experiences feelings of sadness at some point in their lives. Normally these feelings pass within a few days, but a person who is depressed may have difficulty with daily functioning for weeks at a time. Most adults have the ability and the experience to understand their feelings of depression, cope with them, and recover. However, many teens do not have those resources and are especially vulnerable to depression which can have long-lasting effects.
Depression amongst this age group is common and real, but can be easily confused with normal teen mood swings and behaviors. Oftentimes teens do not seek help, because they and their parents think depression symptoms are just part of the typical stressors of adolescence. As if being a teenager in today’s world of social media insecurities and body shaming is not stressful enough, add to it COVID-19 and the dangers of a global pandemic!
Teens need stability and depend on normalcy, but are now dealing with sudden changes to their social lives and daily routines. Some teens do not have access to education, have food insecurities, and some may even experience unsafe emotional and physical home environments. For some, their social identity and interactions have been disrupted. For others, school was their safe haven and that is gone. These challenges can bring forth feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, despair, and sadness.
Parents are wondering how they can support their teen during this unprecedented time. Here are a few recommended tips:
● Create a positive home environment: It is important that your child feels that their home is their safe haven where they are accepted for who they are at all times. A quality relationship with your child is key to them feeling safe and secure. One way to do this is to have regular family meals where you take time with each other. This can create a foundation for growth and can foster a quality family relationship. This is true pre-pandemic, but is even more important now during these uncertain times. Doing this will give parents the opportunity to not only check in with their teen, but reinforce the feeling of having a safe environment where they feel loved, cared for, and nurtured. This is essential and will have a long term positive effect on family dynamics.
● Learn your teen’s world: When possible try to simply watch movies or listen to music with your teen. Sometimes just being present and taking an interest in their activities will cause them to lower their guard and open up. Parents have to balance that with also respecting their need for privacy and alone time as they are used to spending the majority of their time with friends of their own age. It’s important for parents not to be “too pushy” but to offer help and listen.
● Be aware of depressive symptoms: According to Mental Health America, the warning signs of depression that parents should be aware of are:
○ suicidal threats or obsession with death
○ giving away belongings decreased interest in friends
○ dramatic change in personality or appearance
○ irrational or bizarre behavior
○ overwhelming sense of guilt/shame
○ changes in eating or sleeping patterns, changes in school performance, and irritability
○ Sometimes a teen’s feelings of depression may be expressed by experimenting with substances such as drugs and alcohol, being sexually promiscuous, or by engaging in risk-taking behavior.
● Seek professional help: While it is completely normal for teens to experience a wide range of emotions on a regular basis and perhaps even more during uncertain times, it is NOT normal for them to have severe or prolonged feelings of depression or sadness. It would be beneficial for your teen to seek professional help from a mental health provider who specializes in teen depression. Although parents always want to be helpful, reality is sometimes the best help is professional help.
Research indicates during times of crisis a teen’s emotional and mental behavior can have long term lasting effects on them. However with the right support and professional guidance, teens can learn solutions, coping skills and tools to recognize and manage stress. This in turn will help them better deal with the thoughts and behaviors that stress can cause and will give them the ability to rebound from a challenge or set back with a healthy mental attitude.
If your teen is experiencing intense sadness or worry about current or future life situations and this is causing the inability for your teen to cope with everyday life, there is support available. Please reach out to me at 954-391-5305 and let me help you, your family but most importantly, your teen.
Schedule a time to meet for a free telehealth consultation.
Other helpful resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK
Covenant House Nine Line 800-999-9999
Child-Help USA National Abuse Hotline 800-422-4453