The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact a huge toll on not just the physical health but the mental health of the nation. As we enter a new, very uncertain academic school year, it’s important for parents, caregivers, and school personnel to recognize the signs when a young person is struggling with his or her mental health.

We know stress and anxiety can be common during the school year for students, but with the pandemic upon us, it’s even more important to pay attention. For those who are physically going back to schools, the anxiety and fear is palpable – and simply navigating the uncertainly can feel overwhelming. And for those who are learning virtually, too much isolation can be harmful.

Research shows that chronic loneliness - which many of us are feeling these days with stay-at-home orders – can translate to poor sleep, high blood pressure, greater risk of suicidal ideation, and even alcohol and drug use. Depression and anxiety have also increased in the months since the pandemic began.

  • Half of all mental health disorders begin by the age of 14, and about 75 percent begin by the age of 24. Young people continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID19-related mental health issues.
  • Over 70% of young people who took a screening at the National Mental Health America website between April and July 2020 mentioned loneliness and isolation as the main things contributing to their struggles.
  • Since March of 2020, 83% of 11-to-17-year-olds screened positive or at-risk for anxiety and 8 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe anxiety.
  • In the same time frame, 91% of 11-to-17-year-olds screened positive or at-risk for depression. Roughly 9 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe depression.

Debates over reopening and safety concerns are making teachers’ mental health worse. Approximately 61% of teachers said their jobs were always or often stressful and 58% said they had poor mental health due to stress.

It’s important to know that mental health issues are common and treatable – nobody should have to suffer in silence! Know the signs and symptoms of mental health issues so you can seek help for you or someone you care about. Click here for our free, confidential mental health screening to check in on symptoms and to find resources for help.

National Mental Health America’s annual Back-to-School Toolkit focuses on Returning to School During COVID. The toolkit is downloadable, free of charge, and available to anyone: students, teachers, parents, and administrators. It’s filled with Fact Sheets, Social Media posts you can use, a Worksheet, and more.

About the Author

Content for this blog was provided by the national office of Mental Health America.