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The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the youth mental health crisis, but young people’s emotional wellbeing has been declining for years. In the decade leading up to the pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness rose by 40% among high schoolers.

Factors like the effects of the pandemic and stressors associated with negative impacts of social media have only exacerbated the crisis. The issue has become so pervasive the U.S Preventive Task Force recently released new guidance on anxiety and depression screenings for young people.

If you’re concerned about the emotional well-being of an adolescent in your life, consider these warning signs of worsening mental health.

Loss of interest in things they usually enjoy. According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of high school students report feeling so bad that they could not engage in their regular activities for at least two weeks during the pandemic. Withdrawing from activities and hobbies could be a troubling sign.

Their peers are struggling. Sadly, research shows exposure to suicide or suicide attempts can significantly increase the risk for teenagers. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and an opportunity to talk to your younger loved ones about the importance of seeking help. Resources like Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988 are making it easier to access crisis mental health services. Ensuring your teen knows resources are available can encourage hope.

Changing sleep habits. Sleep problems may be a sign of worsening mental health. Research shows as mental health conditions have increased in the youth population the amount of sleep they’re receiving has declined. Despite the relationship between sleep and mental health, less than 25% of U.S. high school students get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Changes in weight or appetite. Whether it’s a lack of appetite or overeating, changes in diet can indicate mental health troubles in young people. While changes in diet can happen during this period of growth, prolonged appetite issues can be a symptom of conditions like anxiety, depression or stress.

According to a survey from Harvard University, 40% of teens reported that they wanted their parents to reach out more, ask how they’re doing and really listen. If a teen in your life is struggling, don’t hesitate to seek help.

Oceans Behavioral Hospital’s care teams offer an array of mental health services – including specialized care for pre-teens and adolescents. We’re here to help with the unique challenges facing young people today.

For more information, find an Oceans location near you or fill out this confidential form to have a representative call you.

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