In the past year, teenagers watched major milestones evaporate before their eyes, while also missing out on all the small moments that make the teen years unique. Mental health professionals said teens are particularly vulnerable to emotional instability, and they have experienced the pain of the pandemic more deeply than other age groups.
While they lost many typical teen experiences, the last year also had young people cooped up with stressed-out parents working from home. Others saw their parents lose jobs that offered health insurance with coverage for counseling, at a time when they might need it the most.
Clinical psychologist Joseph Troiani, director of behavioral health programs for the Will County Health Department, said the world stopped for teens when the pandemic hit, at an age when they’re developing skill sets to maturely manage their emotions.
“These human beings are still growing and developing. The most recent research shows that an individual’s brain is not fully developed until the age of about 23,” Troiani said. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Troiani said state health divisions collectively report a 34% increase in people taking anti-anxiety medications, an 18% increase in antidepressant use, and a 14% increase in medications prescribed for sleeplessness. Those statistics reflect use by people of all age groups, including teens.
At a time when life should be moving forward for teenagers, they’re unable to advance, Breese said, partially because right now they lack the outlets — classes, clubs, sports, and social time — to develop the self-identity they seek.
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