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Tri-State expert reacts to new CDC data on teen mental health

Tri-State expert reacts to new CDC data on teen mental health
Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 7:09 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - New alarming data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, as more than four in 10 U.S. high school students said they felt persistently sad or hopeless during the COVID-19 pandemic in a recent study.

The pandemic has been tough on many of us, but in some ways it’s been especially hard on teenagers, and there are ways experts say we can help them.

CDC data shows 44% of teens reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during the past year.

66% said they found it more difficult to complete their schoolwork.

[READ MORE: Pandemic took a toll on teen mental health, US study says]

Emily Reidford with Easterseals Rehabilitation Center has a mixed reaction, the numbers are shocking.

“Yet, it’s not surprising because we know in the mental health field, youth have been struggling for a while,” Reidford said.

The pandemic took away key coping mechanisms, and changed milestone moments like prom and graduation.

“All those kids who sports were their outlet and that’s how they receive support, that’s how they feel better about themselves and mastered some of these skills, that was gone for them,” Reidford said.

High schoolers watched their parents and caregivers go through the pandemic, too.

“When you’re struggling and feeling out of control, and your sources of strength are out of control or appearing to be going through a hardship too, that can be hard to navigate,” Reidford said.

Reidford says the stigma around mental health has made positive changes, but it’s not quite in the right place yet.

”Now it’s not a taboo topic, but maybe it’s made fun of a little bit, or laughed about more,” said Reidford. “What we should be doing is encouraging each other and sharing those struggles, and helping someone through that.”

She says along with checking on our teens, we should actively exemplify healthy habits like talking about our feelings, taking care of our bodies, reducing screen time and sleeping enough.

“We as adults have to model that for them,” said Reidford. “Show them how to do that instead of just talking about it.”

Moving forward, Reidford hopes now that the world is taking steps to return to some normalcy, that teens will be able to get a lot of those coping skills back.

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