depression

‘COVID Just Really Messed Everything Up': Confronting Teen Depression in a Pandemic

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Many teens are missing out on important moments because of the pandemic. Things like being part of the varsity team, performing in their school play or just being in school with friends. These changes are leaving some students feeling depressed or hopeless.

According to a 4-H study of 1,500 teens after the start of the pandemic, 43% of those teens say they’ve experienced depression, 45% excessive stress, and 55% anxiety. 

Child psychologist Roz Aker-Black says the best thing parents can do is have a conversation.

"I know with teenagers it’s a little hard to talk about feelings, but you have to but do it in such a way to where it is not questions where they could just give you a yes or no answer,” Aker-Black said.

Take note of any changes in a child’s behavior, like eating habits, lack of concentration, sleep patterns, Aker-Black said.

“You may start feeling like, Are you just being lazy not doing your school work?” Aker-Black said.

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What looks like laziness could be something more severe, Aker-Black said.

McNamara High School graduate Aaron Russell knows what it feels like to have COVID-10 disrupt your life. He was on track to play college basketball in the fall, the first in his family to play on a scholarship. His basketball season during his senior year stopped mid-playoffs. Russell said it felt like COVID-19 messed everything up and he would never play again.

"I was on an uphill and then everything was just going on the downhill,” he said.

Russell’s lifeline was his coach, Alpha Bangura. He helped him develop a more positive mindset by adding conversations about mental health to training.

"Having those conversation about what are the ways to navigate past this particular pandemic,” Bangura said.

As a former professional basketball player, Bangura understands the hopes and dreams of young athletes. He’s hosting basketball showcases where recruiters can tune in virtually.

Whatever your goal, Bangura recommends to stay focused on it. 

"Being really intentional about what it is you’re trying to accomplish," he said.

That focus is paying off for Russell. He’s now getting interest from several colleges and is feeling good about his chances to play next fall. 

So, how do you know if your child is down or clinically depressed? The National Institute of Mental Health states to be diagnosed with depression symptoms must be persistent for two weeks. Symptoms can include loss of energy, problems concentrating, being easily irritated, feelings of guilt, and persistent sad or anxious moods.

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