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OPINION: Covid impacted mental health and therapy is the way to fix it

By Emma Stoodley

Seven point one percent of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety and 3.2 percent of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression according to data from the CDC. However, this doesn’t include the numbers from other mental health problems and children and teenagers that possibly have undiagnosed anxiety and depression. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic has only increased challenges with mental health amongst children and teens. Mental health in this country is an ongoing challenge across age populations. Covid caused a mental health crisis in children and teens, but therapy can help to solve the problem. 

In therapy, adolescents learn about and how to develop skills to cope with the daily life stressors, as well as stressors caused by the pandemic. The pandemic brought about many feelings of anxiety due to uncertainty about how long it would go on and a variety of other questions. Mayo Clinic surveys showed “a major increase in the number of adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia during the pandemic.” The survey showed the general trends of mental health-related issues during the pandemic. Although the survey was directed towards adults, children understand the idea of stress and can pick up on it from the adults in their lives. Stress among parents can also influence the development of children. 

The pandemic was extremely impactful on the development of children. Kids were forced to stay inside their homes and were unable to experience many of the things that pre-pandemic children were able to experience. The pandemic decreased the ability for children to socialize and therefore learn social skills. KFF, a nonprofit organization that specializes in gathering information on national health issues, said that “Forty-seven percent of parents with children who are not yet school-age reported they are more worried about their children’s social development than they were before the pandemic.” Social development plays a huge role in the development of an individual. With the help of an individual therapist or a group therapist, children would have the possibility to gain back some of the social skills that they lack due to an inability to socialize during the period of isolation that occurred during the pandemic. 

Another survey from the APA added that “of 1,000 parents around the country facilitated by the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 71 percent of parents said the pandemic had taken a toll on their child’s mental health, and 69 percent said the pandemic was the worst thing to happen to their child.” Parents are unable to control the outbreak of Coronavirus, however, they are able to control how they deal with the problems it caused. Therapy offers a beneficial way to start addressing and managing the problems that the pandemic caused through talking with a licensed professional who may have a different perspective. 

Even without COVID, therapy is advantageous for teens and children that suffer from mental health problems. The Lehigh Center, a research facility that runs many clinical trials related to mental health claims that “seeking mental health treatment can lead to other benefits.” When individuals have good mental health, it can also improve their physical health by having better sleeping habits and improving the immune system. Therapy will not cure every problem that an individual faces, however working through problems with someone by their side can help to better the quality of life. KFF also shares that “many mental health conditions develop by adolescence and, if unaddressed, can persist into adulthood and limit the quality of life.” Without treating children and teens with mental health conditions, it can follow them into their later years and often cause worse conditions later on. Even with mounds of evidence supporting therapy being beneficial, many people still claim that it is a waste of money and isn’t going to help. 

The stigma around mental health prevents people from going to get treatment even if they are struggling with mental health conditions. Therapy can be viewed as a proactive, but also a possibly reactive way to develop strategies to treat mental health. People wouldn’t think twice about seeking treatment if they were hurting physically so why is it any different if people are hurting mentally?

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