The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had an affect on the mental health of adults, children, and teenagers. Socialization with friends and peers has been limited because of the quarantine, causing many teenagers to feel isolated and withdrawn. Now that teenagers are returning to school, the affect of COVID-19 on their mental health is even more apparent. Many activities including sports have been postponed or cancelled. Students are unable to socialize with their friends at school due to safety precautions, and some schools remain all-virtual during this time.
Many of these changes can cause teenagers to appear sad, down, disappointed, and angry or irritable. If your teenager’s mood has changed, you may be wondering how to tell the difference between sadness and clinical depression. It is valid to have concerns about your child’s mental health during this stressful time.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Teens
- Social isolation and withdrawal. Be aware if your teen has started to isolate from family, friends and peers.
- Negative self-talk and self-criticism. Listen to what your teen is saying. If they are making negative self-statements such as “I’m a failure,” “Everything I do is wrong,” or “I’m useless,” this could be a sign of depression.
- Hopeless self-talk. Similarly, be aware if your teen is making hopeless statements such as “What’s the point” or “I just can’t do this anymore.”
- Academic changes or decline. Another sign of depression may be a decline in academic performance.
- Physical complaints, such as headaches and stomachaches, can be connected to depression.
- Increase in reckless behaviors, including substance use. Teenagers who struggle with mental health disorders may be more likely to self-medicate using substances or engaging in other impulsive behaviors.
Talking to Your Teen About Mental Health
- Validate, Validate, Validate. It is important to let your teenager know that you can understand things have been hard. Let them know that if you were in their shoes, you might feel the same way. Express your love, care and concern.
- Ask them how they are feeling. Don’t make assumptions about what your observe. Encourage your teen to use ‘feeling words’ such as ‘sad,’ ‘mad’ or ‘worried.’
- Stick to the facts and be specific. Let your child know what symptoms and behaviors concern you. Ask them if they have noticed the same concerns. You can also ask them what they think about a particular concern (i.e. ‘I noticed your grade went from an A to a C, what do you think is going on there?’).
- Let your child know that you want to speak to them, and choose a day and time together. This can allow them to feel they are participating in the conversation, and can also help them feel more prepared for a conversation.
Getting Help and Support
Helping your teenager get help and support can be an important part of showing your care for them. Teenagers may want to speak to an objective person about their problems, such as a therapist or counselor. You can explore support services at your teenager’s school, such as school counselors or a Student Assistance Counselor (SAC). It can be very helpful to find a therapist for your child to speak to as well. Keep in mind that if you have safety concerns for your child, or if they are making statements about self-harm or suicide, then it is recommended for you to bring your child to a local emergency room to keep them safe.
PerformCare NJ offers a list of treatment resources and support resources for youth, parents and caregivers. You can visit their website here: PerformCare NJ Resources
The New Jersey Hopeline is a 24/7, confidential peer support and suicide prevention hotline. Hotline specialists can provide youth and family with resources and referrals for additional help during a challenging time. The phone number is 1-855-654-6735.
2nd Floor Youth Helpline is a 24/7 helpline available to youth ages 10-24, to provide support and to help come up with solutions to problems. 2nd Floor can be reached by phone or text message at 1-888-222-2222.
If you would like more information about therapy treatment services for your teenager, or for family therapy, please contact Specialized Therapy Associates at (201)-488-6678 to make an appointment. You can also visit us online at Specialized Therapy.