The Implications of COVID for Adolescent Mental Health and Substance Abuse
While adolescents make up a relatively minute fraction of deaths attributed to the covid-19 illness (just 250 of the 541 thousand in the U.S.), they are far from unscathed by the subsequent pandemic’s effect on mental health-related consequences.
Prior to the pandemic and its ensuing slew of following mandated restrictions, roughly 16% of adolescents had a depressive or anxiety disorder. Since the shut down of schools, and nationwide shutdowns where teens have been primarily forced into seclusion, those numbers have dramatically spiked to 31.9 percent.
What’s worse, teen suicide has predictably risen as well. Before the pandemic, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death in the Us. As of this writing, suicide stands as the second leading cause of death among adolescents between the ages of 12-17 - behind only that of accident-related fatalities.
Substance abuse among teens is also a problematic factor during the pandemic. While there are yet to be any conclusive studies on the subject (it's still too soon to tell but preliminary research should be underway soon), experts are concerned about the fairly predictable impact that a waning state of mental health will have on substance abuse among teens.
According to Adrea Raby, D.O. of Bayless Integrated Healthcare calls today’s substance abuse among teens a potential “epidemic hidden in a pandemic.”
“This is always a vulnerable time during this period in their growth, in their development, in the growth of their identity, and often what helps our adolescent population is structure and predictability, and of course with COVID, this renders everything the opposite,” says Robi.
The most recent update into researching the potential epidemic impact on substance abuse among teens came in December when the NIDA issued supplemental funds to existing grantees to help fund their research into the matter. If expert predictions are anywhere on the mark, we should brace ourselves for a whirlwind of tragic news within the next year.
For more on the subject of covid’s impact on teens’ mental health click here.