Watching out for teen depression during the prolonged pandemic – Manila Bulletin

RIKKI MATAY

As early as 2013, students were identified as a vulnerable group suffering from significant stress, anxiety, and depression that adversely affect their mental health (Regehr and Glancy, “Interventions to Reduce Stress in University Students: A Review and Meta-analysis”).

Psychol Med supports this in its separate study that prior to the pandemic, “one in five college students worldwide had one or more diagnosable mental disorders”. The academic years, which are an essential element in building a foundation for positive health behaviors for well-being into adulthood, are also the years in a person’s life during which they are faced with various challenges that pose significant risks to their health expose.

With another impending lockdown caused by the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country and around the world, one of those challenges young adults face is another episode of mental health issues.

So if you have a student in your household, especially a teenager, it is unwise to ignore their various cries for help. Remember, people who suffer from depression suffer in silence.
Distinguishing between growing pains and depression has always been a challenge for parents, but here are some ways you can spot the signs and symptoms to help your child:

1. Irritability. A depressed teen can easily become frustrated or prone to outbursts of anger instead of showing sadness by crying all the time.

2. Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger feelings of inadequacy, ugliness, and failure.
3. Insomnia and other sleep disorders like oversleeping.

4. Change in appetite.

5. Lack of interest in the usual activities that he / she used to enjoy doing. Sudden problems at school can occur, such as bad grades and skipping classes. This also includes withdrawal from social activities. You may find yourself talking to fewer friends or hanging out with a new group.

6. Undiagnosed physical pain, including headache and abdominal pain.

7. Adolescents can use alcohol or drugs as self-medication, but this leads to worse states of depression.

8. Working overtime using social media.

We need to take a closer look at the overuse of social media. The psychiatrist Dr. JM Chu points out the link between teenage depression and social media use, with teenagers who spend more time on their smartphones reporting higher rates of depression.

Why?

1. They tend to compare themselves, including their lifestyle and appearance, to those they consider “followers” on social media, resulting in low self-esteem and excessive self-criticism.

2. Online time decreases the IRL (In Real Life) time that you should use to have actual interactions with others. This also reduces their time for physical and developmental activities. Studies have also shown that sedentary life contributes to mental health problems.

3. Working overtime online affects sleep patterns, which can lead to behavior changes including irritability.

4. Bringing your devices can be your way of escaping reality.

Here’s how parents / adults can help teenagers who may have mental health problems:

1. What is your stomach telling you? Even if your teen says he / she is fine, trust your paternal or maternal instincts minus the attack mode. Acknowledge his / her feelings and pain, and if you are lucky enough to have confidence, listen. Assure your child of your unconditional love.

2. If your child refuses to communicate but instincts tell you something is wrong, encourage them to talk to a trusted friend or counselor. Assure your child that there is nothing wrong with speaking to a professional.

3. Encourage social and physical activities with their peers to get him / her off the beaten track. Depressed teenagers usually choose to isolate themselves from family members. Encourage them to connect and reconnect with their peers and society. Since isolation makes depressed states worse, make sure your children have a few minutes each day to check on them and ask how their day was.

4. Be respectful. Your child may be a child in your eyes, but it’s good to remember that children are only smaller versions of adults, too. Respect your child’s comfort in terms of your child’s willingness to communicate at any given time. Nagging will only push her away.
5. Limit social media usage for the above reasons.

You may get tired of helping teenagers with depression and anxiety, and you can experience a range of negative emotions such as despair and frustration. But remember, this is a busy time for your child, and it is not difficult on purpose. Rather, your child is actually suffering, so be patient.

Also, don’t be too strict with yourself if progress is not what you planned it to be. Progress comes in different time frames, but the most important thing is that you don’t let your teen down on this often bumpy road.


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