Pandemic, virtual learning impacts teen mental health

Study shows 61% of teens have increased feelings of loneliness
Dr. Robert Peyton explains the difference he's seen in his clients
Dr. Robert Peyton explains the difference he's seen in his clients(WMTV ELISE ROMAS)
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 6:27 PM CDT
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MIDDLETON, Wis. (WMTV) - The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unexpected shift for teen mental health. A combination of isolation and virtual learning has impacted many students in different ways.

The 4-H National Council conducted a study of 1,500 teens in May. Around 70% said they felt depressed, anxious or high stressed, and 61% said the pandemic has increased feelings of loneliness.

"I felt really lonely," soon-to-be senior Annika Hallquist said. "I would go to school all day, and then I had my school friends, and then I had my sports friends, and to go from seeing at least 50 people a day to only seeing my parents was really hard."

Saint Mary’s Health Psychologist, Dr. Robert Peyton said he’s seen a variety of emotional responses from his clients.

“Some of my clients are loving it, they’re like this is great and they’re really enjoying the separation and using those virtual services,” Dr. Peyton said. “But others are getting depressed, and getting anxious, and a number of them are getting bored and tend to do things people view are somewhat risky.”

With the spring semester behind her, Hallquist still has concerns about starting classes online again this fall.

“I think it was an important time to check in on the people around you, so I would text my friends, everyone got into an emotional state sometimes,” Hallquist said. “I’m afraid that I’m going to go down that same road emotionally and my mental state will go down again.”

As for ways to combat depression, Dr. Peyton Suggests keeping your body and mind busy.

“There are lots of healthy things people can do outside,” Dr. Peyton said. “The next best thing is being creative, so write a song, make a painting, do a drawing, create something new. That really is helpful to get your brain going to fight against that depression, and of course, any kind of social contact that you can arrange.”

If you or a loved one needs help, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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