Short, Long-Term Impacts Of Pandemic On Kids’ Mental Health

Mar 12, 2021, 10:43 AM | Updated: 1:09 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Masked under the COVID case count, not too distant from isolation, a different kind of illness continues to take its toll on the mind.

Some health officials are calling it a pandemic all on its own.

“There have been so many changes. So many disruptions to normal life activities,” said Dr. Tom Conover, a child and teen psychologist and the medical director for youth services at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. “We’ve all been running this marathon, but nobody asked to run it.”

The number of suicides in Utah – the leading cause of death among youth in our state – has remained concerning but steady. Research also shows mental health struggles are on the rise, or at least people are getting help.

The CDC reports that between March and October 2020 there was a 31% jump from the year before in the number of teenagers visiting emergency room for mental health reasons. There was a 24% increase in those visits for kids 5 – 11 years old.

Some experts worry how the pandemic could impact their mental health in the future.

“I never want to be alarmist,” Conover said. “But I do think that it’s wise for parents, caregivers, anybody who’s involved in the life of an adolescent to be alert in the possibility that delayed effects can occur.”

“We can look at Hurricane Katrina,” said Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. “And we can see that four years after that natural disaster that many children struggled with, with mental both children and adults struggle with mental health issues. And so, if that’s any precursor of, you know, what we may see from COVID, we need to be prepared and be ready to respond.”

“I’m really concerned. I’m very concerned,” said Laura Warburton. “We’re going to be pushed to the limits.”

Warburton lost her 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, to suicide in 2014. Since then, she’s been on the frontlines working to pass legislation and helping other parents in the fight against teen suicide. She also runs a website,, dedicated to her cause.

“I am in contact with several parents that have recently had children end their own lives,” she said. “We know what works and what works is talking about it. What works is checking in with your children. Checking in with yourself.”

Like masks, hygiene and distancing, Conover says there are protective measures parents and children can take to help protect themselves from depression and anxiety. Things like social interaction, exercise, monitoring social media use, looking for changes in behaviors and knowing the available resources.

“The depravation in in-person social contact has probably been the single most notable stressor,” said Conover. “Talk to your teen about what they’re hearing and what they’re seeing.”

COVID cases are down and the end of the pandemic appears to be in sight, but Conover says we need more data to really understand how the last year may impact our children’s mental health for years to come.

The state has resources available. Representative Eliason outlined several of them:

“We have the Utah crisis line, 1-800-273-TALK that’s available 24/7/365 days a year where if you know somebody is in crisis, they don’t know where to turn to, they can always call the Utah crisis line. Also, we have a really a relatively new resource that very few people know about. And it’s the Utah Warmline. Statewide Warmline. It’s free to call. It’s confidential. That number is 1-833-SPEAK-UT. And that is again, anybody can call that number if they need somebody to talk to. They don’t necessarily have to be in crisis, maybe they’re just feeling down need somebody to talk to. And there’s always a caring, live person at the Utah warm line. We also have Safe UT available now for higher ed students in most of our institutions. And we have just rolled out the Safe UT frontline app for healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement, firefighters, where they can chat 24/7/365, anonymously with a crisis worker. Again, no cost, anonymous and confidential. So, on top of that, we have mobile crisis outreach teams that are like mental health ambulances that can be dispatched, no cost, no flashing lights, no uniform. And the best part is typically no bill. And those are wonderful, very trained mental health workers that can respond to a person’s home.”

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute says in 2020 it received more than 105,000 total calls for help between the Statewide CrisisLine and Statewide WarmLine. HMHI says total calls for help to the Statewide CrisisLine and Statewide WarmLine combined are trending up 48% from March 2021 compared to March 2020.

HMHI reported “seeing increased levels of stress and emotional crisis from callers since the pandemic started. On the Utah CrisisLine, it is taking certified crisis workers 41% longer to support callers over the phone in March ’21 than last year in March ’20.”


If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the Utah State Crisis Line1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

Additional Crisis Hotlines 

  • National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741 
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386 

Online resources 

In an emergency 

  • Call 911 
  • Go to the emergency room 

KSL 5 TV Live


Julianna Preece goes through the mountain of medical documents she's acquired for her health condit...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Herriman couple is suing CVS, says 5x Covid vaccine dose mistake caused health problems

A couple is suing a Utah CVS vaccination clinic, saying a nurse’s mistake led to the wife receiving five times the normal COVID-19 vaccine dose and caused serious health issues she’s still dealing with today.

7 days ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests indicating a positive result are photographed in New York, April...

Associated Press

More free COVID-19 tests from the government are available for home delivery through the mail

Americans can order more free COVID-19 tests online for home delivery.

19 days ago

FILE - Doses of the anti-viral drug Paxlovid are displayed in New York, Aug. 1, 2022. The COVID-19 ...

Amanda Seitz, Associated Press

COVID-19 treatments to enter the market with a hefty price tag

The COVID-19 treatments millions of have taken for free from the federal government will enter the private market next week with a hefty price tag.

1 month ago

Toddlers dance during play time at Living Water Child Care and Learning Center as center director J...

Associated Press

Child care programs just lost thousands of federal dollars. Families, providers scramble to cope

After two years of receiving federal subsidies, 220,000 child care programs across the country were cut off from funding Saturday Utah

2 months ago

Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Assembly, right, announces the winner of the 2023 Nobel Pri...

David Keyton and Mike Corder

Nobel in medicine goes to 2 scientists whose work enabled creation of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19

Two scientists have won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 and could be used in the future to create other shots.

2 months ago

child in doctor's office...

Mike Anderson

Flu, COVID cases expected to rise in Utah

The number of COVID-19 diagnoses continues to stay above what we saw over the summer but now some doctors are starting to see early signs of the flu as well.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

Short, Long-Term Impacts Of Pandemic On Kids’ Mental Health