There has been a phenomenal explosion of mental health services and communication around the importance of mental health care since the beginning of the global pandemic.
There is not an age group on this planet that has not been adversely affected by the experience of quarantines, lockdowns, and the perpetual uncertainty that surrounds what’s next in our daily lives.
Of all the age groups most impacted by the uncertainty of these times, teenagers may have had it the worst. Adolescence was already a high-stress time, with anxiety surrounding peer relationships, future plans, and newly competitive environments with increasing responsibilities. Pre-pandemic, one out of every five teenagers experienced a mental disorder. It would not be a stretch to acknowledge that that has likely increased.
Fortunately, a new solution reported in Scientific American holds real potential to address this issue. Schools have joined the mental health care team and are creating what has been described as “school based interventions” to “enhance student’s capacity to regulate their emotions in healthy ways, such as reframing a problem positively, have proven effective at preventing or reducing mental health problems.”
This intervention comes in several forms, including establishing a club-like setting where students regularly check in on emotional health using tools like breathing breaks and mood thermometers. These forums taught students to observe in a non-judgemental way their own thoughts and feelings. One example as described in Scientific American included “a 12-session group prevention program called RAP (Relax, be Aware and do a Personal rating) Club to eighth-graders in 29 Baltimore City public schools. Most schools served marginalized communities where poverty limits family prospects and youth are exposed to high rates of violence and other trauma.”
A follow-up assessment of the RAP program showed that participants experienced significantly fewer trauma symptoms than those who had not participated.
Engagement in mental health care and helping students reframe problems with positive solutions-focused mindsets and by allowing them to acknowledge emotion in healthy ways can begin to heal some of the dis-ease everyone is feeling in the world today.
Additional self-care tips for teens can be found here.