#JamesDonaldson On #MentalHealth – #Anxiety And #Depression: #Youth #MentalHealth Got Worse During The #Pandemic

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In Hawaii, #mentalhealthproviders say they’re only beginning to see the repercussions of forced #socialisolation and distance learning on young people.

By Brittany Lyte

Honolulu #psychiatrist Sonia Patel tells the story of a #teen who was confined to a college dorm room most hours of each day while classes were being taught remotely. He started vaping #marijuana to manage his escalating #anxiety — even though he was taking a medication that doesn’t mix well with #marijuana.

On one occasion, the #teen spiraled into a dangerous state of cannabis-induced psychosis.

Hawaii's Mental Health Crisis Special Report badge

The #coronavirus #pandemic stripped #adolescents of healthy coping mechanisms, such as socializing with friends. Some of her #patients adopted detrimental new strategies to manage their #stress, #anxiety or trauma.

Almost two years into the #pandemic, classroom doors have reopened to #students who spent roughly an entire academic year attending virtual #school. Although many kids have enthusiastically embraced a return to the normalcy of lunch rooms, sports and classrooms, others are struggling to reclaim their pre-pandemic lives amid intensifying psychological symptoms and a stark regression in their ability to cope.

For some #teens, the very thought of going to #school in the morning can elicit physical symptoms of #anxiety, #depression and gut #stress, Patel said.

“I’ve had to write a lot of doctor’s notes,” the #psychiatrist said. “It’s this fear of their little #teenage world — seeing people, having to bump into people, having to talk to #teachers. A lot of these kids can’t ask their #teacher for help on assignments. They can’t even talk to their #teacher.”

Aaron Hoff, Keala Foundation, Kauai, Suicide, Youth, Prevention, Mental Health, Crossfit
The Keala Foundation on Kauai aims to engage Kauai #youth in healthy lifestyle choices as a method of #suicide and drug use prevention. During the worst days of the #pandemic, the organization’s free after-school fitness programs moved online to accommodate #socialdistancing requirements.

A powerful call for action to address a rampant #youth #mentalhealthcrisis arrived this week in the form of a public health advisory issued by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. It spotlights escalating psychological symptoms among #children, #teens and young #adults who’ve lost out on so many social and developmental milestones during the #pandemic.

#Depression and #anxiety have doubled during the #pandemic, according to the advisory, while negative emotions and #behaviors, such as impulsivity and irritability associated with #ADHD, have moderately increased. In early 2021, emergency room visits for #suicideattempts shot up 51% for #adolescent #girls and 4% for #adolescent #boys compared to the same time period in early 2019.

“I don’t think we, as a society, paid sufficient attention to #youth and how they were experiencing the #pandemic,” said #MentalHealth America of Hawaii Executive Director Bryan Talisayan.

Since the onset of the #pandemic in early 2020, #mentalhealthproviders statewide have reported heightened levels of #anxiety, #loneliness, #depression and #stress in their #patients, both #youth and #adults.

As a result, some #psychiatrists say they’ve increased their #patients’ medication dosages or now see them more often. People with no history of #psychiatric symptoms are also struggling.

In June, a national analysis of data collected from people seeking help with their #mentalhealth during the #COVID-19 #pandemic ranked Hawaii as having the highest percentage of survey participants who reported thinking about or planning #suicide.

The finding is based on data collected by #MentalHealth America from nearly 750,000 people — of which more than 40% are #adolescents ages 11 to 17 — who volunteered to take an online #depression screening aimed at discovering #mentalhealth hotspots across the country.

#Schools Are Starting To Ask For Help

Since #schools reopened for in-person learning, Talisayan said there’s been a surge in interest from public and private #schools in the nonprofit’s #youth #suicide and bullying prevention training program, as well as its #suicideprevention course for faculty and staff. To keep up with rising demand, #MentalHealth America of Hawaii hired a new full-time #mentalhealth educator to lead in-school training programs in the spring.

“I think we’ve all been hearing throughout the #pandemic that the #mentalhealthcrisis will be the second #pandemic, for both #youth and #adults,” Talisayan said. “But seemingly, throughout the #pandemic, the priority has been on #adults, and #youth were kind of just there in the background, waiting for decisions to be made while simultaneously experiencing the #pandemic, missing out on sentinel events (and) important social development activities.”

“Even when the decision was made to send kids back to in-person learning this fall, what seemed to be missing from the discussion and decision-making process was the #youth voice,” he said.

Dr Sonia Patel MD portrait at her office
Honolulu #psychiatrist Sonia Patel said she’s seen an uptick in #anxiety, panic and #depression in her #patients due to the #coronavirus #pandemic.

A number of #teens Patel treats who suffer from #anxiety started exhibiting signs of #depression and suicidal thoughts for the first time following months of #pandemic-induced #isolation, she said.

One #highschool #student, who was hospitalized after becoming suicidal, probably wouldn’t have experienced such a dangerous deterioration in her #mentalhealth if she hadn’t been cooped up at home during the worst months of the #pandemic, Patel said.

“This entire generation of #teens missed out on almost two years of development and I’m just now seeing the fallout of what the last year and a half has done to some of the youth,” Patel said. “They’re at the most vulnerable developmental point in their life, their brains are more fragile, and they’re supposed to be going out and developing their identities but they are completely not able to do that.”

When it comes to technology, the #pandemic presented #parents with another conundrum: How do you limit a child’s screen time when virtual #school requires them to be glued to their devices?

Some of Patel’s #teenage #patients passed the long, lonely hours of a computer-based #school year on #socialmedia, which can reinforce preexisting problems with negative body image, #insomnia or cyberbullying.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

Finding Help

The #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support to people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources and information on best practices for professionals. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The Hawaii Crisis Line is another free, 24-hour support service. On Oahu call 832-3100. On neighbor islands call toll free 1-800-753-6879.

Free, 24/7 support for people in crisis is also available via the Hawaii Crisis Text Line. Text “Aloha” to 741741. You can also reach out via #Facebook Messenger at facebook.com/crisistextline.

Information on #suicideprevention and intervention training is available at Health.hawaii.gov and at the #SuicidePrevention Resource Center. The Crisis Line of Hawaii provides a team of trained and experienced professionals to help individuals.

Like schools, the public health threat posed by the #coronavirus prompted many #mentalhealthproviders to supplant face-to-face programs and services with those conducted online. A benefit of this new availability of virtual help, however, is that it’s engaging new populations, including #adolescents who may tend to be more at ease communicating over a phone, tablet or computer screen.

The #behavioralhealth staff at Kokua Kalihi Valley continues to conduct many #patient appointments remotely as the #pandemic has rapidly expanded the use of telemedicine for psychotherapy, according to KKV Medical Director Dr. Laura DeVilbiss. Before the #pandemic, the community health center only offered #mentalhealthservices in person.

“That has been really good because people can access it from home or even on a work break,” DeVilbiss said.

This increased accessibility could be one reason why #patient demand for #mentalhealthservices remains abnormally high nearly two years into the #pandemic, she said.

Now that classroom doors have reopened, DeVilbiss said in many cases the younger #children who had been grappling with #loneliness and #isolation appear to be doing better psychologically than when their #schools first shifted to remote learning.

“It’s been helpful for them to be face-to-face again at #school but there are still repercussions from last year,” she said.

Especially among #teens and young #adults, the #doctor said elevated symptoms of #anxiety and #depression appear to be a looming repercussion of the pandemic’s hardest days.

“A lot of our #patients work in the service industry, whether it’s in the hotels or in transportation or as greeters at the airport, so if their hours are backed up they’re just not making enough to get by,” she said. “So a lot of people move in with each other and then there’s more #stress because of crowding in the house. That affects everyone in the family.”

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