May is Mental Health Awareness month. At Meeker Parenting, we always take this opportunity to seriously discuss the state of mental health and our kids because it’s such a critical part of their overall health and well-being.
Sadly it seems that over the years, kids’, especially teens’, mental health has been on the decline. Making matters worse is two years of Covid-induced isolation.
I have personally witnessed a rise in anxiety and depression among the patients in my practice over the past two years. The scary part is that I’ve seen it appear in kids who had no problems prior to Covid.
Why is Covid affecting our kids’ mental health?
There are numerous ways that Covid has negatively affected our kids’ mental health but in my experience, these are the biggest culprits:
During Covid, kids have spent more time on social media, where they see their friends posting happier lives, better friends, and more attractive figures. The longer they look at social media, the more they want to look at it—it’s addicting. And the longer they look at it, the more they feel they are falling short.
All kids, especially teens, want to feel like they fit in. Social media comparison makes them feel like they don’t, and that they’re not enough. These feelings can lead to anxiety and depression. The more time spent on social media, the more likely a child or teen is to experience depression.
Lack of Meaningful Relationships
Kids have learned a lot about relationships during Covid. Some good, some bad. They lived with their parents 24/7 for the first time. Most of those parents were adjusting to homeschooling their kids while trying to do their jobs. The stress in these relationships skyrocketed. Some families fought. Others grew to resent each other. And those who didn’t have good family relationships to begin with were reminded of that.
We know that people can’t survive without healthy intimate relationships and to the degree that Covid worsened them, depression rose. Of course, this didn’t happen with all families, but for some kids, their family ties worsened and that will inevitably lead to mental health issues.
While many kids amped up digital communication during Covid, they never received the critical components of healthy communication so vital to good relationships: facial expressions, body language, touch. Without these, connections don’t feel complete. This lack of connection has led to depression in many of our kids.
There are many other reasons Covid has caused a mental health crisis among our kids, but these are the most important. I know this because I also saw the other side. Kids who were already spending more time with parents and siblings and less time on screens thrived the best. Going into Covid, they stood on solid ground. They had well-established communication and strong relationships and, therefore, were not forging new territory.