Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Diana Forlenza, Clinical Social Worker
If you’ve found your way to Laney’s Blog, you must be interested in teen mental health. If so, I’m glad you’re here. My name is Diana Forlenza, LICSW. Laney asked if I would write about my experience as a Clinical Social Worker during the pandemic (I happen to work mostly with children and adolescents and so I guess she thought it was a good fit).
You may have been thinking that maybe some of what you have been thinking and feeling over the course of the pandemic was unique to you, you may have discounted those thoughts and feelings or may have tried to ignore them, pretending that they weren’t there. Some of you may have noticed that you were experiencing a wide range of emotions and may have wondered what was going on.
I’ve been working with children and teens for over 20 years, and I will tell you that the pandemic has been really hard on kids overall and that if you (or others) were concerned about how you were feeling and the thoughts you were thinking during the course of the pandemic, you weren’t alone. I’m not writing to give you a crash course in statistics regarding the correlation between the pandemic and the impact on adolescent mental health, but the fact of the matter is that the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on mental health in teens. The pandemic disrupted life as you knew it, it changed everything for you from school, after school and sport activities, social life, family and extended family life, changes in family income, isolation, fear and worry, the whole unknown of it all.
On my end of the pandemic, voice mails and emails flooded in from parents who were worried about the changes they were seeing in their children, I couldn’t keep up with the demand (I’ve always been pretty busy in my practice but the pandemic resulted in a whole new level of BUSY). Teens wanted and needed to talk about feeling lonely, depressed, anxious (about missing friends, losing friends, the challenges of online school and how it might affect their futures for college, going back to in person school in the midst of a pandemic, would they, their friends, or family become seriously ill or die if they contracted COVID).
Simple activities like going to the store for milk or thinking about spending time with friends were now incredibly complicated logistically and fraught with anxiety and possibility of real danger. Worries that teens had before the pandemic paled in comparison to what they were having to face and cope with in a COVID world. Teens who were anxious and depressed prior to the pandemic tended to experience significant increases in their anxiety and depression and kids who didn’t have significant anxiety or depression prior to the pandemic were now experiencing heightened anxiety and symptoms of depression.
So, from my personal, clinical experience it wouldn’t be at all surprising that you have been impacted emotionally by this global pandemic. So please, when you question yourself and the thoughts or feelings you have had or have now as being legitimate, think again. You’ve been through A LOT! Give yourself the kindness and care that you would extend to a friend when they are feeling overwhelmed by life to yourself when it’s needed. Reach out for support when you need it, you never have to be alone with difficult thoughts and feelings. Friends and family are important resources for you but if you’re concerned about talking to them, Laney has provided lots of good resources in her blog that you can contact to get support, please use those as another option.
You may have been thinking that maybe some of what you have been thinking and feeling over the course of the pandemic was unique to you, you may have discounted those thoughts and feelings or may have tried to ignore them, pretending that they weren’t there. Some of you may have noticed that you were experiencing a wide range of emotions and may have wondered what was going on.ss and a determination to help and support your friends, family and neighbors. I am proud to know you and I am honored to work with you. Your spirit and community mindedness during the pandemic give me hope for our future, and I for one want to thank you.