12 May, 2021 (Consolace Counselling Services)
‘Everything is temporary, so is the pandemic.’ My words made little or no impact on those restless eyes that struggled hard to meet my gaze when we first met at my place. Reshma looked absolutely frustrated and disinterested when her parents brought her here for the first time. In her first session itself, I could sense her anxiety and tendency to withdraw from everyone. The pandemic has no doubt affected each and every one of our lives but I believe, teenagers like Reshma are more vulnerable to such conditions and need more attention and care. I chose to be a silent listener to let her bring her frustration and worries out. I told her to speak her heart out. After a few minutes of silent gaze, she finally said, ‘I don’t know how to put it in words. I am so done with it, this pandemic!’ There was anger, despair, hopelessness, pain, all bundled up together in her words. After proper analysis and identification of her problems, various counselling techniques including behavioral therapy were applied. After two consequent sessions, we were successful in bringing a change in her negative perception. She looked more motivated and confident.
● Study related anxiety: It was her first year in college but she couldn’t enjoy a normal college life and had to restrict herself to online studies inside the four walls of her home. She said that without any proper examinations and classes taking place, she finds her future in darkness. Constant fear about her academic future made her highly anxious.
● Social life: According to her parents, Reshma was a girl who enjoyed active social life. But, the pandemic changed everything. Not able to meet friends, cousins and dear ones made her feel so lonely. The lockdown worsened the condition. This social distancing was somehow affecting her emotional health. Not being able to connect with friends and engage in extracurricular activities was troubling her and she slowly started to withdraw from others.
● Isolation: At one stage, her father was tested positive for Covid-19 and was isolated from the rest of the family. This again resulted in deterioration of her mental health. She couldn’t handle the mental pressure and got moody and stressed.
Reshma is not a lone case. The pandemic has adversely affected the mental health of many other teenagers like her. According to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, about 46 percent of parents have admitted that the mental health of their teenagers have worsened during the pandemic. (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/health/covid19-induced-lockdown-negatively-impacted-mental-health-of-teenagers-study-101616299670593-amp.html) The Poll also suggested that teen girls showed more anxiety, worry, depression/sadness when compared to teen boys. Let us analyse a few more points that worry adolescents during the pandemic.
● Fear of getting sick: The alarming rise in the Covid-19 cases has generated fear among all sections of the society. Teenagers are more worried thinking about their future and family’s condition if they get sick due to coronavirus.
● Parental stress: The adults have their own baggage of problems brought by the pandemic which comprises economic hardship, overwork, loss of job in some cases, isolation and much more. This has resulted in parents neglecting the emotional and mental-wellbeing of their teenagers. Parental stress leaves a negative impact on the mental health of adolescents and they become more aggressive and frustrated with everything going around.
● Restrictions: The one thing that the teenagers hate the most is restrictions and this pandemic has put restrictions on almost all the activities that they loved to do during normal days like meeting with friends, sharing time with relatives, playing outdoor games, going on trips and other events etc. Stopping all this at once and also for a prolonged period of time has affected their mental health so badly that many teenagers have become depressed worrying about the consequences of this pandemic. In some cases, teenagers suffer from emotional breakdown and start crying being unable to control their emotions.
We all are fighting a battle not just against Coronavirus but also against our own deteriorating mental health. We can only win the fight if we notice the symptoms and get early treatment.
● Mood swings
● Sleep disorders
● Change in behaviour
● Change in eating patterns
● Lack of interest
● Tendency to withdraw from everyone.
● Do not neglect the signs of depression in your child.
● Pay attention to their emotional needs. They cannot win the battle without your support and care.
● Spend quality time with your teen kids. Encourage them to do something creative.
● Engage in friendly conversations. They might be missing their friends but you can become their best friends during tough times.
● Instil confidence in them and be their biggest support system.
● If you think the symptoms are worsening in your child, get immediate professional help.
Teenagers need someone trustworthy, someone understanding, someone friendly and someone who has got the solutions to all their problems to stand by them. Who else other than a well-trained professional counsellor can play all these roles so well!? For all kinds of counselling assistance and mental support, get in touch with Consolace Counselling Services in Trivandrum. And remember, ‘This too shall pass.’