Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Happening Now

Cookeville Mental Health Pro Says Teens Suffering Since COVID

The latest report of the mental health of Tennessee Teenagers shows the ongoing impacts of the COVID shutdown, according to a local mental health expert.

The Tennessee Coalition of Children and Youth reported increases in all categories of suicidal thoughts in Tennessee high schoolers. The study reported that nearly 30 percent of high schoolers said their mental health was not good “most of the time” or “always” over the previous month.

Cookeville Psychiatric Solutions Mental Health Nurse Practitioner April Ebersole said the lack of structure in 2020 has lingering negative effects.

“Any change in the routine is very hard for an adult or a child to kind of overcome,” Ebersole said. “So, not having structure in a home or not having structure with school routines increases the likelihood of any mental health symptoms.”

Ebersole said improving brain function through exercise, proper diet, and sleeping habits. She said improvement there can help teenagers get back on the right track.

“Some of the things that we can do to combat that is, get with our healthcare providers, treat any underlying vitamin deficiencies, and try to get our brain back into optimal health,” Ebersole said.

The report showed 53 percent of high school girls and 30 percent of high school boys said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks during the last year. That’s a 63 percent increase from 2011.

Ebersole said a history of impulsive behavior, undesirable life events, loss of a loved one, and violence in the home are among the leading causes for mental health problems in teenagers. She also mentioned social media as a sort of double-edged sword for teens, noting that it can be a healing environment that helps them feel seen and heard, but can also be a hotbed of misinformation. She said adults have to pay attention and be willing to help.

“I would encourage any adult that comes in contact with a child to engage in conversation, engage in asking the child or teen how they’re feeling today, and kind of taking an interest in teens and youth,” Ebersole said.

Ebersole said teenagers need resources available to listen to them and connect them with healthcare providers if needed. In Tennessee last year, 511 social workers served some 975,000 students. That is nearly 2,000 students per social worker, far from the National Association of Social Work’s recommended standard of one psychological support staffer per 250 students.

“I think the first step for any parent or caregiver to a child that’s seeing the, teen that’s having the anxiety, depression, problems in school, is to reach out to that guidance counselor, because they are the bridge to that next step in the school system in involving a psychologist or even an outside provider,” Ebersole said.

Share