How to help teens struggling with mental health amid COVID pandemic

Mental health first aid classes offers parents resources to help teenagers who have reported increased anxiety and depression during the COVID pandemic.

Video Transcript

JOHN GARCIA: Dr. Judith Allen has coached parents and caregivers on how to identify when their children are facing a mental health crisis. And since the pandemic began, she is finding that number increasing dramatically.

JUDITH ALLEN: The pandemic has-- what it's done, it's created isolation. It's put kids in situations where they can't connect to their peer group, they can't be social.

JOHN GARCIA: The parent of a 12-year-old in the northern suburbs says the isolation brought on by remote learning has led to her son getting therapy and taking antidepressant medication.

- Removing the social interaction has kind of made it impossible for him. And that caused him to really kind of regress into himself.

JOHN GARCIA: Therapist Jessica Hutchinson says his situation has become more common. Her practice has been flooded with calls from teens and their parents since the start of the pandemic.

JESSICA HUTCHINSON: Some children were told and adolescents were told that they could get this virus and they could die. Right, so this world that they looked outside and saw has completely changed. It is not as safe as it used to be for them.

JOHN GARCIA: A recent study by researchers from Lurie Children's Hospital, published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," showed one in four teens has become angry, anxious, or stressed during the pandemic. And about 15% show signs of depression, according to their parents or caregivers. Those numbers are the point of the mental health first aid classes.

JUDITH ALLEN: --is that we want adults to be trained in how to recognize these symptoms and then triage, be able to sit and talk to a child about what they're experiencing, to bring them down, to de-escalate the situation.

JOHN GARCIA: Experts say it's important to treat mental illness issues in teenagers and adolescents early on so it doesn't turn into a mental illness situation for an adult. John Garcia, ABC 7 Eyewitness News.