One good thing that has been brought to the light since COVID-19 started is the need for more support towards mental health for youth across the United States. Before 2020 mental health was promoted across the country as something everyone should feel comfortable to discuss but unfortunately it is was still seen as a don’t ask don’t tell situation. COVID however changed this in the blink of an eye and has made the topic go full boom across the country. This past year and a half children and teenagers everywhere were stuck inside because everywhere they looked they were told they might die or possibly hurt someone else by going out. The media even went as far as saying they could be putting their own families at possible risk of death by going out in public if they caught COVID.
This is a lot to have thrown at any person, especially a child who was still learning how to even tie their shoes still having to hear that on their televisions or from their parent's phones. During all of this, we also had parents dealing with multiple challenges of their own, which caused many of them to at times forget their child's issues. Many parents chose to use various forms of technology as an easy and simple way to distract their kids from what was going on around them, which resulted in youth as young as two being given tablets, phones, and gaming systems. With parents choosing to let these devices parent their children during COVID-19 we now have a massive amount of youth being taught/shown images and videos that no person at these ages should ever be shown. They have now become desensitized thanks to both new and old social media applications that they used and still use for hours on end every day.
Children are also suffering from a depletion of social skills and common sense because of not being able to get out and enjoy real-world experiences where they would have hopefully comprehended how to behave with one another. With the mixture of these two jointly you now have a generation that blindly follows the message/acts of “influencers” on these apps. With TikTok trends like “Devious Licks” challenged kids of all ages to go around their campuses and commit both vandalism and theft of property in classrooms to youth creating group chats where they send messages back and forth openly talking disgustingly about one another spreading rumors for fun. Now all of these kids are back on campus without the knowledge of how to function like proper human beings and causing issues or they are dealing with very serious mental health issues but are not getting the help that they so greatly need.
We have gangs growing, fights breaking out, drug use at an all-time high, and youth suicide becoming more prevalent on news cycles everywhere. A report from the Department of Social Medicine and Health Management out of Jilin University found youth suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. It has been revealed that youth mental health was significantly related to being less educated, being the enterprise employee, suffering from PTSD symptoms, and using negative coping styles. We have on our hand's kids suffering from negative psychological distress, depression, and anxiety who think that there is no help available for them.
I am happy to share that there is help thanks to numerous resources available from different county departments thanks to Merced County leading a charge with state support to help our county's youth.
Available resources are;
- Helping children cope during and after a disaster.
- Mental health and psychological considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Many more.
This letter is written in hopes that parents will start the conversation about mental health with their children. We need to work harder on communicating with one another and maybe even focus on making more memories with the ones we love by spending more time together.