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The coronavirus year: Teenage years hit heavy by mental health issues

Many groups have been hit hard under the coronavirus measures, but teenagers in particular have been singled out for mental health issues.

Teacher and student
School photo courtesy
School photo courtesy

This has been a rough year under the weight of the coronavirus and its associated restrictions for everyone, but especially for teenagers. Many young people have missed out on experiences that define the teenage years. In some cases, the pandemic measures have increased the level of teen mental health.

These issues are highlighted by Dr. Teralyn Sell, a psychotherapist. Sell tells Digital Journal about the emotional, physical and mental journey that teens face during that crucial transition period in adolescents. This has been disrupted under coronavirus so additional help is needed to  support teens in building good mental health.

Dr. Sell explains: “A teenager’s social-emotional development is also hinged on their brain development, hormones and neurotransmitters. Erik Erikson’s theory of development says that it is during this time that an adolescent will begin to develop and question their own sense of self.”

She adds: “In this day of social media, it is becoming more difficult to find who you are and where you belong. Teens are inundated with images that speak to their worth and comparison of others.”

Dr. Sells sees social media use as having a profound impact on the development of self and often interferes with mental health and esteem-related issues.

To help younger readers and their parents, Dr. Teralyn Sell has provided three tips to help teens boost their self-esteem. These are:

Tip #1: Avoid excessive exposure to social media

When possible, eliminate or really reduce the use of social media. This is particularly true if social media is recognized as part of the esteem issue. If your teen struggles with body image, lifestyle comparison or feelings of inadequacy social media may be a piece of that puzzle. Setting some limits, like turning off all technology a couple of hours before bed and limited overall time on social media, is a good place to start.

However, this might be difficult as you get resistance. You might then consider having some conversations about social media and its impact and invite your teen into the conversation rather than it being a lecture.

Tip #2: Use thought stopping

Another strategy is to use thought-stopping. We cannot control a thought when it comes into your head, but we can control what we do with the thought. Don’t hang on to a negative thought. Instead, say ‘stop’ and think of something else. Over time this will help to create new neural connections in your brain instead of circling the negativity drain. Helping teens understand they can have control over how they handle thoughts is a powerful way to build self-esteem.

Tip #3: Build mastery

Find an activity that you enjoy and work toward building mastery. This will not only encourage you to find a group of people with similar interests, but it will also build your sense of worth within yourself and within the group. Start by sampling some things that you have a smidgeon of interest in and explore them. If it is a sport, commit to the season. If it is a new hobby or club, give it at least 3 months of your time. Building mastery is a great way to solidify your confidence.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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