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COVID 19: Impact on Youth's Mental Health

Written By:

Fatima Javed

Publishing Date:

December 31, 2021

Even before the pandemic started, mental health has been a concerning topic, greatly affecting teens and adolescents in the United States. According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated “13.3% of US adolescents aged 12-17 experienced at least 1 episode of major depressive disorder in 2017” (Rodriguez 2021). Yet, roughly 60% of the individuals did not receive treatment for their mental health. As the CDC notes, the closure of many schools and businesses due to the pandemic has demonstrated “increasing rates of US high school students experiencing persistent sadness or hopelessness” (Rodriguez 2021).

The closure of schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic created a significant impact on adolescents' mental health. School counselors and staff were the only mental health services many students had access to, especially students from low-income backgrounds and minorities. Without these services, many students lost healthy outlet options. School closures also affected adolescents and their home environments. The pandemic has affected their caregivers as much as it has affected the students. With high rates of unemployment, financial/emotional stress and widespread COVID-19-related misinformation, these individuals have been feeding off of each other's stress while living under the same roof. The adolescents who may have been depressed from their own personal lives may face extra challenges from issues with their familial life. Families spending more time together, while a positive consequence for most, it was quite the opposite for some. For example, adolescents who were forced to spend time in abusive and dysfunctional homes due to the quarantine.

Hospitals around the United States have reported increasing rates of attempted or completed suicides among youth. In Las Vegas, a school district reportedly had 19 students commit suicide since the pandemic started. Hospitals have also reported seeing “worsening mental states” in patients during the pandemic when compared to those seen before the pandemic.

The pandemic and quarantine has also made youth increasingly dependent on the internet. With loss of physical human contact, many of the youth have turned to apps like Instagram and Tiktok as an escape. Although it has helped to connect people virtually, it has also decreased the mental health of many. Now that youth are spending more time on social media, they begin to see more idealized figures on their feeds. This results in many feeling depressed and self conscious. For example, many of the comments seen under videos online are from girls saying they will stop eating or they want to die because they do not look like the societal “perfect girl,” which social media pushes to the forefront.

Even if the pandemic is ongoing, it does not mean we stop looking out for our peers. At these times especially, it is crucial for professionals, such as counselors, to reach out to patients to maintain continuity of care. Since in- person visits are still limited, virtual visits should be available to all youth and families. School counselors since the pandemic have lost touch with their students; however, there needs to be a way to accommodate virtual sessions for their students, like holding private 30 minutes discussions on platforms like Zoom. In the long run, youth need to be able to connect with peers who might be going through similar situations to overcome hardships together. Returning of youth to school is important for the preservation of their social network. (Rodriguez 2021).

Uptakes in mental health declines is concerning and needs to be addressed. Youth participation is necessary since this affects youth directly–we need to build platforms for their voices to be heard, and to increase the quality and access to mental health services around the region. Organizations like the United States Youth Forum (USYF) are geared towards youth and built so young people can voice their concerns in different aspects of life, including mental health. USYF not only spreads awareness on these topics but advocates for changes within local and federal governments. If you want your voice to be heard, reach out to USYF: and other similar organizations as a step forward in seeking help and for the betterment.


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  2. Major depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Updated February 2019. Accessed online February 7, 2021.

  3. Ma Z, Zhao J, Li Y, et al. Mental health problems and correlates among 746 217 college students during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak in China. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2020;29:e181. doi:10.1017/S2045796020000931

  4. Rodriguez, T. (2021, April 30). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Adolescent Mental Health. Psychiatry Advisor. Retrieved November 6, 2021, from

  5. Rogers AA, Ha T, Ockey S. Adolescents’ perceived socio-emotional impact of COVID-19 and implications for mental health: results from a U.S.-based mixed-methods study. J Adolesc Health. 2021;68(1):43-52. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.09.039

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