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COVID pandemic affecting mental health of teens

MGN

(CBS) - Estimates show one in five adolescents and teens have a diagnosed mental health disorder, and the pandemic has caused that number to jump even higher.

Aaliyana Carr is a standout high school student, excelling in and out of class. Her days are packed with extracurriculars and homework. But last fall, she says she felt the pressure building from the pandemic and from being one of the only Black girls in her school. "I had feelings of worthlessness and just extreme tiredness. I really didn't have any focus in school and I just had overall feelings of depression and sometimes even suicidal thoughts," she says.

It's something many teens are struggling with. In the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, 27% of parents said their adolescent has seen a mental health specialist, 59% of those within the past year.

"Some of the signs that these families or these parents spoke about were ones that really all parents should be aware of. And that includes excessive worry or anxiety, decreased interactions with family or friends, increased moodiness, drop in grades, change in sleep or eating patterns," says Dr. Gary Freed, a pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and co-director of the poll.

The poll also found that many parents encountered barriers, including long waits for appointments and finding a provider who takes their insurance. "These difficulties really highlight the strain of our current mental health system," Dr. Freed says.

Less than half the parents surveyed said their child’s primary care provider asked about mental health at all check-ups. Researchers say parents should speak up at those visits if they have any concerns.

Aaliyana learned about the symptoms of depression online and reached out to a trusted teacher and her mom. She says that therapy made a big difference. "I apply the techniques that my therapist gave me, like breathing techniques to calm me down because I also suffer from anxiety."

Aaliyana and a friend started an organization called S.A.G.E that provides mental health resources in schools for Black girls. She's also lobbying local lawmakers for change.

Article Topic Follows: National-World

CBS News

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Mercedes Martinez

Mercedes Martinez joined the KSWT team as anchor/producer in October 2020. You can catch her on 13 On Your Side at 4:00pm.

Reach out to Mercedes at mercedes.martinez@kecytv.com.

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