05 Feb Our Kids Are Not Okay: Spotlight on the Mental Toll COVID-19 Has Taken on Our Youth
As we rapidly approach the one-year mark of the pandemic’s impact on the U.S., another health emergency has surfaced—the mental health crisis affecting many of America’s tweens and teens. Sequestered at home in the luminous blue light of computer screens, our youth are depressed, isolated, and stressed due in part to the loss of loved ones, loss of household income, and mounting bills. They are also missing friends, milestone moments, and the regular outlets that schools afford for socializing.
While students keep themselves and their younger siblings connected to virtual learning environments, they are also becoming essential workers to lighten the economic load on their families and grieving the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19. The CDC reported that from March–when the pandemic was declared–to October 2020, mental health problems among youth were up 31 percent for those 12 to 17-years-old and 24 percent for children ages 5 to 11 during the same period in 2019. The pandemic has clearly taken its toll.
Kamarie Brown is a South Central Youth Empowered Thru Action (SCYEA) leader at Community Coalition. She is also Crenshaw High School’s Student Body President and the Student Representative on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education. Kamarie says she fielded messages last year from students who struggled to cope with distance learning during the pandemic. She was particularly moved by one student who contacted her on social media to share his concerns about not keeping up with his classwork. Other students have asked her for help to stay motivated.
The honors student has Advanced Placement classes and is at the top of her class with a 4.4 grade-point average, but says she too is struggling.
“It’s not easy,” she said in an interview with The Guardian. “When friends ask how I’m coping, I tell them it’s not easy for me either. I’m motivated, but I have moments when I want to give up, too.”
The high school senior shares an apartment with eight people, including four other school-aged children struggling to manage the virtual learning environment.
“As far as coping, I try to take care of my mind and body. I make sure to get some sunlight every day, make myself some tea, and go online shopping when I can. Keeping a positive outlook and achieving some short-term goals helps me not to feel like this pandemic will never be over. Everybody has to find their thing,” says Brown. “I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and do stuff that I would normally do if I were going to school, like putting a nice outfit together.”
She also says that keeping connected has been extremely helpful. SCYEA, Community Coalition’s youth program, has played a significant role in facilitating that connection.
“It’s helped me feel connected to other people and has been my community through this whole thing. It’s where I can process and talk through everything and anything. My mentor and “femtors” are there, and that’s been really meaningful to me. SCYEA is a constant reminder of how people can still be deeply connected even when we can’t be together,” Brown concluded.
Parents should pay close attention to children who:
–Don’t get out of bed,
–Have stopped eating,
–Have withdrawn from families and friends,
–Are failing courses,
–Will not turn on their cameras or,
–No longer participate in the virtual learning environment.
All of the above could be red flags for parents. One Anaheim family recently shared the loss of their 14-year-old son, hoping others would see the warning signs before it is too late. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children 10-19-years-old and during the pandemic, more teens appear to be struggling with their mental health.
Need help? Here are some South LA Resources for Youth Centered Mental Health Services
Shields for Families
11601 S. Western Avenue | Los Angeles, CA 90047
program info 323.242.5000 | fax 323.242.5011
Community Assessment Services Center (CASC): SHIELDS’ Community Assessment Services Center (CASC) has been providing screening, clinical assessment and referral services to the South Los Angeles community since 1997. Our CASC works closely with a network of contracted substance abuse treatment agencies, mental health providers, and other community based organizations to provide an entry point for individuals seeking treatment for alcohol and drug treatment, mental health and/or domestic violence services.
For inquiries, please email. firstname.lastname@example.org
At Wellnest’s no-appointment, no-fee Access & Wellness Center, expert staff assess individual client need and then engage a spectrum of nationally sanctioned evidence-based, trauma-specific and trauma-informed practices as appropriate.
University Park Office 3031 South Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday. 8 am – 5 pm
Exposition Park Office
3787 South Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Operating Hours:Monday-Friday. 8 am – 5 pm
Leimert Park Office
4401 Crenshaw Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90043
Integrated Care / Adventist Health White Memorial
1701 E. Cesar E. Chavez
Los Angeles, CA 90033