Young people have had a lot to deal with over the past year: a transition to remote learning, applying to college and finding a job during a global pandemic.
But there are also mental health issues, and some doctors are showing an increase in the number of young people experiencing stress, depression and anxiety.
“I think we’re shining a light on it more and under these circumstances, it’s more pronounced,” said Anthony Wright, a social worker with Chicago Public Schools. “The pandemic has compounded issues of stress and trauma.”
Judith Allen, the chief operating officer for Communities In Schools of Chicago, says she uses the acronym “V.U.C.A.” to describe what young people are going through: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
It can be hard for young people to describe how they’re feeling, outside of general terms like being sad or mad, Wright said.
“What sticks out to me the most is their inability to even articulate what’s really going on with them,” he said.
To look out for these signs of stress, Allen said parents and guardians should pay attention to the anomalies, like talking about something differently or showing a different attitude. It’s really paying attention to details and not being dismissive, she added.
She encourages young people to find alternative ways to communicate their issues and verbalize what they’re feeling. That can look including sharing a song that describes how they feel or comforting themselves by watching a favorite movie.
“We help them create these sort-of survival kits on how do I connect with something else that makes me happy because my support manager might not be there all the time,” said Allen. “It’s helping them find ways to be resilient on their own as well.”
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: dial 711, then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.