AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — Augusta Health’s Outpatient Behavioral Health Services offers individual counseling for teens between the ages of 12 and 19. They help teens who are struggling with a wide range of mental health issues, like depression, anxiety and the stresses of the pandemic.
Andrea Kendall is a licensed clinical social worker therapist who works with students seeking help.
Over the course of the pandemic, she said her patient load has increased about 20%, and the pandemic has proven to have gotten harder for teens as each month passes.
Online learning has been a common struggle for teens, who say they feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they have.
“I’ve heard from kid after kid, ‘I’m so lonely, I feel so isolated, this work is so hard.’ A lot of kids are saying, ‘I’m usually an A student, and I’m failing and I don’t know what to do,’” Kendall said.
Kendall added that for a lot of kids, the idea of going back to the classroom four days a week is also causing a lot of anxiety because they have been away for so long and do not know what to expect.
“I do think a lot of kids are at a tipping point. I’m seeing a lot more suicidal kids in our emergency room, so I feel like, at this point, it’s really important to look at the kids who are struggling and say, ‘I know it’s been a really hard year, let’s just make some concessions and get through until the end,’” Kendall said.
Kendall has helped students find ways to cope with these struggles, and she said staying connected with friends and to the outside world can be crucial.
“A lot of the time there’s this power struggle, ‘well if you don’t do your assignments, I need to take away privileges,’ and for teens, that’s usually the phone,” Kendall explained.
But if teens do not have the outlet to connect with their friends, they can feel even more isolated. Kendall suggests parents set day-to-day expectations with their child and set goals the child can reach in order to get phone privileges. She said it’s good to start fresh each day, so the student has more chances.
She said it’s also important to stay stimulated while at home.
“Even if you don’t want to, and even if it doesn’t feel like it’ll help, it’s sort of like taking your vitamin, you got to get outside, walk around the block 10 minutes, walk the dog, just anything to get some air and some movement because they’re just sitting.”
She added it could also help to brainstorm activities or hobbies your child might enjoy to help them make their world feel a bit bigger.