Covid’s Unseen Toll: Mental Health of the Young
Largely the Covid pandemic has spared healthy young individuals from a fatal infection. Instead, most individuals from middle age and younger get infected and exhibit little more than flu-like symptoms for a few days.
But what about unseen effects? Younger generations have still been hit by social isolation, economic or political concerns, the anxiety of getting others sick, and the disruption of their busy daily lives. Their physical health may be in top shape but mental health is something totally different.
More than half?
A statistic recently released by the CDC claims one out of four Americans aged 18-24 had suicidal thoughts during the pandemic. Rates of depression and suicide among young adults were already skyrocketing in the years before Covid leading to tragedies such as the much reported opiate crisis. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated the problem.
Moreover, a Harvard study of young adults found that 68% reported decreased energy, 59% had trouble sleeping, and 52% found little or no pleasure in activities they used to enjoy. These are all classic signs of depression.
Devices making it worse
Another trend that was already happening before Covid was the overuse of smartphones and social media. Study after study reveals the mental health costs of hours each day spent on social media platforms, or just staring at a screen.
With the news focusing on high-stress events and dialogues on social media growing more vitriolic and insulated, spending too much time on the smartphone is certainly one of the driving factors of young people’s mental health struggles.
Added to this is the idea of “learned helplessness,” that in a crisis situation there is nothing the individual can do but suffer. Instead of learning to assess one’s situation and utilize healthy coping mechanisms to productively move forward, sufferers instead internalize feelings of helplessness and fall into depression.
The Covid pandemic has been quite adept at teaching people about “learned helplessness.”
The Bregman Medical Group’s offices are located near a highly attended university and I’ve seen these problems affect young people myself, especially college students. They are separated from their families for the first time, their education is disrupted, their friends might be absent. This is a time when they are supposed to be developing but instead the world has stopped for them.
Adding to this problem for college students is the fact that many of them work in the hospitality industry which has ground to a halt. This means that financially they are in a bad place also. All of these factors may lead to depression, substance abuse through self medication, and in the worst cases suicide.
More services, less stigma
The solution to this epic problem lies in the views and attitudes of the sufferers themselves. They hold the key: many young people still see mental health as a taboo subject.
They might feel a sense of shame or timidity at pursuing professional psychiatric or therapeutic treatment. But the truth is, mental health is no different from physical health. Everyone should at least have a check up once in a while!
If we educate young people about mental health issues, provide more resources in our universities, and end mental health stigma, then we can be on our way back to a bright future.
If you or someone you love needs helps, please reach out. Bregman Medical Group has decades of experience treating various disorders. We offer online psychiatric and therapeutic treatment right to your device, simply schedule at www.bregmanmd.com or call 305-740-3340.