STUDENT WELLNESS

Students Share Their Mental Health Struggles Since COVID-19 Pandemic Hit

Oct 19, 2020, 10:30 PM | Updated: 11:32 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Being a teenager can be difficult no matter what, and the pandemic is making it even harder. With school closures, canceled events and the risk of getting sick, kids are dealing with all kinds of new issues, and it’s affecting their mental health.

In 2019, before COVID-19 hit, a Pew Research survey found 20% of teens struggled with mental health.

But a study of 1,500 teenagers conducted in May 2020 by the National 4-H Council saw a significantly higher number. They found:

  • Seven out of 10 teens are struggling with their mental health in some way
  • 55% said they’d experienced anxiety
  • 45% said they felt excess stress
  • 43% said they’d struggled with depression

Hallie Rees fits into those categories.

“I was like, I can’t do this anymore. My anxiety is just taking over me and my depression is taking over me,” she said.

The bubbly 13-year-old made the cheer team this year and has a ton of friends. But not being able to see all of them gave her anxiety, and online school made it worse.

“I could not focus at all, and it took me five hours to do one assignment,” said Rees. “I’d just usually stay in my room and not talk to anyone because I couldn’t do it anymore, and it was just really hard for me.”

Madison Balser’s anxieties are different. The 16-year-old said she’s worried about getting COVID-19 at school because she can’t fall behind in her high-level courses. But she’s also scared of bringing it home.

“My mom is super high risk and she’s a teacher at the junior high school,” Balser said. “And I know that if she got it, she would have to miss her classes and have to get a sub, on top of probably having to be hospitalized because of (how) high risk she is.”

Then there’s 9-year-old Addison Fankhauser.

“It’s so hard to explain it (anxiety) because they don’t know what it feels like,” she said.

Her mom, Amanda Owens, said Fankhauser has struggled with anxiety for years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it put her over the edge.

“All the little things added up, and then eventually, it was too much for her and she started acting out and having these fits,” said Owens.

For the first time, Fankhauser had to go on anxiety medication.

“I can’t control it. I can’t. It’s just so hard,” said she. “And my body is just, I have to say stuff to calm down and I say rude stuff and I don’t want to.”

A new study from the University of Utah’s Kem Gardner Institute shows Utah has among the highest rate of young people in the nation with mental health issues who don’t get help – 60% of depressed teens don’t receive treatment for depression.

“The importance of working with young children is a solution that will help us reduce the effects of what we’re seeing later in life with our youth,” said Rebecca Dutson, CEO of The Children’s Center.

But how can you recognize if your own child is struggling?

“I think when it lasts longer than days and weeks, then that’s suggesting that the normal coping strategies aren’t working very well,” said Carin Knight, a licensed clinical social worker at Primary Children’s Hospital. “You’re going to see increased restlessness, sleep problems, appetite problems, increased moodiness. And especially if a teen mentions anything to do with suicidal feelings or thoughts, definitely they need to get help.”

Sometimes, outside help is what the doctor ordered. Both Fankhauser and Rees now see a therapist to help with their anxiety.

All three girls also got a new dog within the past few months. They said that helps, too.

But the most important things experts said parents can do is monitor their child’s stress levels, pay attention to changes in behavior and talk to them a lot.

“I feel like as long as you keep the communication open with your kids, then it will be OK,” said Owens.

Mental health experts said it’s so important to listen and pay attention to your kids. They said it’s also OK to reach out to your primary care physician to ask questions, and they can help decide if your child needs additional help.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Student Wellness

(KSL TV)...
PHILIP MARCELO and DAVE COLLINS Associated Press

Mask mandates go away in schools, but parent worries persist

Major school districts around the country are allowing students into classrooms without masks for the first time in nearly two years, eliminating rules that stirred up intense fights among educators, school boards, and parents throughout the pandemic.
4 months ago
FILE PHOTO (Cache County School District)...
Josh Ellis, KSL TV

Cache County schools adjust schedules due to student, staff absenteeism

The Cache County School District has announced adjusted schedules for all of its schools due to "unprecedented student and staff absenteeism."
5 months ago
FILE PHOTO: Viewmont High School student Becca Marsden is tested for COVID-19 by Davis School Distr...
Tamara Vaifanua, KSL TV

Utah House votes to suspend Test to Stay program

Lawmakers in the Utah House of Representatives have approved a bill that would suspend the state's Test to Stay program and clarify how schools would request to go remote.
5 months ago
Luke Fowles walks with his mom and brother into Foothills Elementary after getting a police escort....
Kelsey Ott, KSL TV

10-year-old Utahn gets police escort for first school day since starting cancer treatment

A Utah boy had a special sendoff for his first day of school.
10 months ago
Utah Valley University is number 3 in  Business Insider list of universities with best return on in...
Kelsey Ott, KSL TV

UVU announces vaccine mandate for spring semester

Utah Valley University announced it will require students to have the COVID-19 vaccine beginning in the spring semester.
10 months ago
Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona answers questions during the daily briefing at the White ...
COLLIN BINKLEY, AP Education Writer

State mask bans face federal civil rights inquiries

The Education Department says it’s investigating five Republican-led states with universal mask bans, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions.
10 months ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Students Share Their Mental Health Struggles Since COVID-19 Pandemic Hit