How to help teens struggling with mental health amid COVID pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mental Health first aid classes offers parents resources to help teenagers who have reported increased anxiety and depression during the COVID pandemic.

Dr. Judith Allen has coached parents and caregivers on how to identify when their children are facing a health crisis, and since the pandemic began she found that number increasing dramatically.

"The pandemic has created isolation. It's put kids in situations where they can't connect within peer groups. They can't be social," she said.

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One parent who lives in the norther suburbs said remote learning led to her 12-year-old son getting therapy and taking anti-depressants.

Therapist Jessica Hutchinson said that boy's situation has become more common. Her practice has been flooded with calls from teens and their parents since the start of the pandemic.

" The world they looked at outside and saw has changed," she explained. "It is not as safe as it used to be for them."

A recent study by researchers at Lurie Children's Hospital, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed one in four teens has become angry, anxious or stressed during the pandemic, and about 15% show signs of depression, according to their parents or caregivers. Those numbers are the point of the classes.

"We want adults to be trained in how to recognize these symptoms, and triage and talk to a child to deescalate the situation," Dr. Allen said.

Mental health experts say it's important to treat mental health issues in adolescents quickly to keep them from becoming long-term mental illnesses as adults.

The mental health classes are being offered twice a month free of charge.
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