The Pandemic and Mental Health

Let’s be honest: COVID-19 is hard on everyone, but it’s particularly hard on teenagers. It has affected every aspect of our lives. School is different, sports are different, work is different, friendships are different. The list goes on and on. As Pediatrician Rebekah Fenton said in a recent Washington Post column, “The teens of the pandemic are living through a significant and prolonged stress that most adults have never known.”

Under the circumstances, it’s not surprising that teens are struggling with mental health issues. As a result, other aspects of health are suffering. Dr. Fenton says that some of her teen patients “have gained or lost significant weight, in search of comfort or control. Some who had manageable levels of anxiety before the pandemic have worsening symptoms. Isolation precipitates depression or suicidal ideation. More than younger children, adolescents notice and are affected by their parents’ emotions, including financial pressure.”

You should take care of your mental health as much as you take care of your physical health. Mental health illnesses affect the ability to handle daily activities. This means that those who are having a harder time may experience panic attacks, start having a harder time focusing, start sleeping more, start having a hard time completing assignments which make cause in grades plummeting, start having trouble getting out of bed or taking showers and even more obstacles.


Studies around the world are already showing how teenagers’ mental health is suffering during COVID-19, but we wanted to know how it is affecting you, our readers.

The Hyphen sent out a survey to a group of students that have chosen to remain anonymous. When asked how their mental health was before COVID-19, 80% said they were happy or in a good state of mind. Since the pandemic started, 60% of respondents said that their mental health has dropped or they are having a harder time. One student said, ”Corona has affected my mental health by allowing me to have more extra time on my phone, which leads to being on social media, or anything relevant to that, which leads to comparing myself to others way too much. It has also caused me to overthink and worry about things I should not be.”

This is a rough time for all of us. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please reach out. This is not something you should have to go through alone. Below are hotlines if you are not comfortable talking with a
parent or counselor.

By Rachel Lowe

Preventing Suicide: Avoidance Isn’t the Answer

Suicide is a raw topic that most people like to avoid. The ones trapped by suicidal thoughts often feel alone and don’t talk about their feelings. People who were left behind after a loved one’s suicide are left with questions and pain, often causing them to stay quiet. Those without experience with the heartbreaking topic don’t know how to talk about it.  But the idea of avoiding conversations about suicide and everything related can be deadly, especially since according to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death in teenagers and 4,969 of those deaths were Indiana residents. 

Suicide is preventable, so how do we prevent it?  

Gage Donohue, coordinator of a Survivors of Suicide Support group who lost his 19-year-old daughter (a Jeff High graduate) to suicide, says, “We can reduce the suicide rate by encouraging people to ask for help when they need it, to educate the public about the warning signs and risk factors and let people know there are a lot of people willing to help.” 

According to Donohue, one way to prevent suicide is simply looking for signs in your friends and peers. Donohue says, “Listen to what people are saying when they are talking to you, look in their eyes, watch the body language and ask questions.  Put down your phone and really listen. Do not be afraid to ask, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ You will not put the idea in their head if it is not already there.” In addition to offering support, Donohue says you should encourage them to contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline or a health care professional right away.

Donohue also says that is important not to degrade or dismiss someone’s feelings or thoughts. He says that people with suicidal thoughts or depression are not weak. “People do not really want to die, they just want the mental or physical pain to end.”

Most importantly, if you feel yourself having these destructive thoughts or feelings, talk to someone. Tell your parents, your friends, a doctor, or a trusted adult. Remember that you are not alone and millions of people feel the same way. You are worthy of life and everything it holds. 

Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Call 1-800-273-8255 OR
Text CONNECT to 741741

How Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health?

You live in a pretend world. Viewing fake people in fake places with all of their fake possessions. Sure you have followers, sure you have “friends,” but are you really happy? Most people think Yeah, I’m Happy, but social media can affect your mental health more than you think.

According to a Pew Research Center study, 92 percent of teens claim to go online at least once a day, and 24 percent say they are online almost nonstop. The statistics are from 2015 and I can only assume these numbers have increased in the past three years. So, here’s my question: how much does this affect your pursuit of happiness?

Worrying about the amount of “friends” you have or the amount of likes you get can impact you more than you think. Not only does social media have emotional consequences, but it can influence what you eat, how much you eat and how often you choose to go to the gym. These things can cause physical problems, not just emotional problems. If you’re under eating and over-exercising (yes, that is a real thing) just to impress your followers, it can generate physical health issues.

Cyberbullying is another big problem that comes with social media. Not being the “perfect weight,” not wearing the “right clothes,” and/or not having all the right materialistic things are only a few situations that could result in cyberbullying. People can be mean. I’m just going to put that out there. Some will criticize you for things that may not even be true, but that’s just the way the world works. I’m not saying that cyberbullying is okay; that’s not at all what I’m implying. What I am trying to say is that you can’t expect for things to be perfect. And, if you are getting bullied, in person or not, you should definitely talk to a trusted adult. Whether that be a teacher, counselor or parent, they can most likely help you.

Growing up without social media hasn’t been super easy, which seemingly contradicts the purpose of this entire article; however, that actually helps my case. I don’t connect with people in the same ways as everyone else does. I tend to feel left out when I don’t see “that picture” or “that tweet” or don’t get “that invitation.” Just as having social media can cause negative feelings, not having social media can degrade your self-esteem too. This shows how much these apps have changed people throughout the last decade. If I can feel uncomfortable just because I am forced to have physical conversations, that tells you that some changes really need to be made.

What can you do to alter the way social media influences you? First I would suggest a cleanse. Although I said that not having social can be negative, I still think that you should try to go a couple days or maybe even a week or two without using any of your social media. It may end up becoming something that you make permanent. If you can’t stomach dropping Snapchat, however, you need to remember that whatever you post it will be out there forever. You don’t need to change who you are to fit in. If you are posting things that are even the slightest bit inappropriate just because everyone else is doing it, that can really come back to haunt you. Everything you put on the internet can be saved by anyone who sees it, even if it gets deleted.

 

Written by Kristen Jacobs

The Stress of a Student

Recent studies have shown that the modern-day student has equitable, if not more, stress and anxiety levels than that of a child psychiatric patient in 1950. Medical professionals have seen more anxiety in today’s teens than they’ve ever seen before.

Despite all of the cultural and generational discrepancies, why has the world seen such a peak in “teen angst” recently?

Students claim that the amount of work they are given is nearly impossible to
balance with a well-rounded schedule, but as far as the school system is concerned, there has not been a change in the amount of work given throughout the generations.

So with that being said, what is it like for a student who balances school, sports, work, and extracurriculars? Not to mention being able to have any down time with family, or a social life.

Junior Reece Elder has a first-hand experience with this busy schedule. Elder is the current 2020 Class President, is heavily involved in theater, choir, and is also a player on the tennis team.

“Trying to find time for grades on top of sports and theater can be really stressful depending on how well you handle your time,” Elder said, “I’m really bad at time management, personally,so I do experience a lot of stress trying to balance all of this.” The same can be said for most, if not all, of the busy students here at Jeff High.

Eventually, everyone will grow up and have to juggle a lifestyle that is always booked with events and work to do. However, is it sound for a teenager’s mental health to handle a schedule that is just as occupied as a working adult’s?

Dr. Sara Villanueva reported on this subject through PsychologyToday.com. “Teens today feel a lot of pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, etc.” Villanueva said, “Failure has gone from being viewed as a learning opportunity to being clearly unacceptable.”

According to Villanueva, the cultural attitude and fear of failure is one of the leading causes of student stress.

From one student to another, there is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed sometimes. But in the end, if your mental health is at stake, your grade can wait. However, if your anxious thoughts makes you a danger to yourself or others, please seek help.

Written by Bella Bungcayao

Effects of Mental Illness on Women

She seems happy at school. She talks to her friends, eats her lunch, and does her work.

Unfortunately, it all changes as soon as she opens her front door to return home.

She starts to take off all her makeup, then just stares at herself in the mirror. She sighs and walks to her room, where she just sits on her bed. She has a feeling she is about to cry, but no tears come out.

Instead, she just sits there, staring into the nothingness she lives every day.

This is a normal day for sophomore Riley Brown, who suffers from anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression.

“It feels like when you’re outside on the icy ground and you slip, but you catch yourself, except it keeps happening and it never actually stops,” says Brown. “The medicine helps. Instead of worrying 24/7, (now) it’s more like 12/7.

According to mentalhealthamerica.net, one of the nation’s leading websites on mental health, around 12 million (roughly one-in-eight) women experience some form of clinical depression every year.

Compared to their gender counterparts, women seem to experience depression at twice the rate of men. Specifically, girls aged 14-18 years have higher rates of depression than males around this age.

“Men often display their depression with anger and overworking, while women suffer in silence,” says Allison Puckett, a former Wellstone Hospital employee. “They do, however, seem to experience more support.”

According to Puckett, someone who shows signs of depression may just need someone to open up to.

“It’s really important to talk about depression. You won’t cause someone to commit suicide just by asking if they’re okay,” Puckett said. “If the signs are there, you should ask. People need to know to never give up. There’s always hope.”

Signs of depression include increased feeling of tiredness or insomnia, overeating or loss of appetite, excessive crying, loss of interest in activities, and outbreaks of anger.

“I encourage someone who is having negative thoughts to go to a trusted adult, coach, or counselor,” says Jeffersonville High School counselor Tyler Colyer. “If someone is showing signs, be supportive, aware, and tell a trusted adult.”

Now that Riley has started taking her medication she seems happier and less anxious. When she recognized the symptoms she confided in someone she knew cared about her.

That changed her life.

“I promise things do get better,” Brown says. “It might just take some time.”