The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted countless lives as it continues to alter our sense of normalcy. Although the pandemic has been incredibly difficult for adults to adjust to a new normal, less thought of are the adolescents impacted by the pandemic. For many, schools serve as a venue to build community and a place to interact with protective adults. For low-income children, this may be a place where they have food, security and support networks.
Although child maltreatment statistics have gone down in the pandemic, the fear is that mistreatment is being underrepresented. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of young adults aged 10-24 years old. In a study conducted by the CDC, suicide rates amongst teens increased by a whopping 61.7% between 2009-2019. Suicide attempts were almost 5% higher in black males and females. According to Stanford Children’s Health, feelings of confusion, stress, fear, and doubt may contribute to a teen attempting to take their life.
If I were to describe the pandemic in a nutshell, fear, doubt, confusion and stress could probably be put at the top four of anyone’s list of feelings. We have faced death of loved ones, social injustice, a turbulent presidency and economic turmoil. During this stress, many of us have had to face the burden of this pandemic isolated and alone.
Adolescents, especially of low-income backgrounds, don’t have the choice to go on a weekend skiing trip “to get out of the house.” And low-income areas are often not safe to go on a leisurely stroll to relieve stress. With distance learning, youth are often confined to the four walls of their room as they sign onto a screen. Interactions on zoom are often frustrating and unnatural — many of the little nuances of human connection are lost. Students are also less likely to confide in their teachers over zoom when they lack privacy in their household.
So what can we do during this trying time? This is when community and mentorship are most
important. Getting involved with the community can provide unity, support and resources during such turbulent times. Normalizing conversations about mental health and decreasing stigma around needing help is crucial.
Remember that you are not alone. Through community and strength, we have the power to
overcome challenges together.
Call to Action:
• If you are a parent or relative, consider initiating a family conversation about trauma and
mental health. Try to listen to the teens in your life without criticism or judgment. After
all, the teenage years are a very difficult time.
• Consider connecting with local organizations around your community — like Elevate Youth,
Fighting Back Partnership, NAMI, BeingWellCA and Vibe Solano — to see how you can get
involved with your community and support families and youth.
• Consider supporting SB 21 — a Mental Health Awareness License Plate Bill to
spread awareness on youth suicide and promote wellness centers at schools.
Resources For Youth Struggling with Mental Health:
• California Youth Crisis Line – Youth and Family 24/7 crisis 1-800-843-5200.
• Kaiser After Hours Crisis Line — 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.; (707) 645-2700.
• Elevate Solano Youth — (707) 648-5230, www.fight-back.org.
• Kinship Program — please contact Hope Ivory. Kinship Program Manager. HopeI@edgewood.org.
• Fighting Back Partnership Family Resource Centers Program — Dinora Corrie
Program Director (707) 648-5230 firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Angela Dobson/Vallejo; Post-Baccalaureate student, CSU East Bay
Stanford LEAP Scholar