MORRISVILLE, N.Y. — It’s time we have an important talk with our youth. A recent study of 1,500 youth ages 13-19 nationwide was commissioned by the National 4‑H Council. The study found that “7 in 10 teens are struggling with their mental health in the wake of COVID-19” and more than half of those surveyed shared that the pandemic has “increased their feelings of loneliness.” What’s worse is that 64 percent of the teens surveyed felt the pandemic was going to have a “lasting impact” on their mental wellness, but only 33 percent felt comfortable talking about it. With suicide now reported by the World Health Organization as the third leading cause of death in teens ages 15 to 19, we need to address this immediately (2020).
So, what else did the survey find? The National 4-H Council survey, which was administered by the Harris Poll, found that 65 percent of the 1,500 teens surveyed reported experiencing anxiety or depression as a result of constant uncertainty about the future. Additionally, many of our youth have reported feeling it necessary to hide their feelings or often pretend they were okay to not worry anyone. The survey also revealed that teens now feel more pressure to “hide their feelings than to do drugs”. So where are our kids expressing themselves and learning about mental health and coping strategies? With many teens now spending an average of 9 hours (75% of their waking hours) on their phones, computers, or televisions, it is no surprise that nearly half of our kids have been utilizing social media to try and answer their questions or address their concerns.
So, what can we do to support our youth? Jennifer Sirangelo, President and CEO of the National 4-H Council when asked about the results of the survey expressed that “young people are facing a whole new world and set of challenges today and it’s our job to listen and respond.” We need to sit down with our youth and encourage them to talk openly about their COVID-19 experiences. They miss their peers, family members, sports, and school. They miss the little things. We need to keep them engaged. We need to listen. We need to remain focused on their concerns and ensure not to minimize their experiences when introducing our own. We need to remind them it is okay to express their confusion, frustration, and sadness with us. We are all in this together.
There is good news. Most teens who reported that they felt the need to hide their feelings expressed a desire for this to change. They want conversations about social-emotional wellbeing to occur at home and desire to learn about mental health and coping strategies in schools. Let’s work together to support our youth. In 4‑H we aim to empower young people with the resources and support to address their health and well-being head on. By understanding how to take care of their minds and inner being, 4‑H helps young people develop good decision-making and strong interpersonal skills which is key to holistic well-being (National 4-H Council, 2020). Stay up to date with all of the Madison County 4-H Youth Development events and educational opportunities by visiting our website www.madisoncountycce.org and/or liking us on Facebook.
Some key findings from the National 4-H Council survey include:
- 55% of teens say they’ve experienced anxiety, 45% excessive stress, and 43% depression
- 65% of those surveyed say uncertainty about the future makes them feel anxious or depressed
- Teens report feeling more pressured to hide their feelings rather than do drugs
- 67% feel pressure to keep feelings to themselves
- 67% pretend to feel better to not worry anyone
- 65% deal with their feelings on their own
- 82% of teens are calling on America to talk more openly and honestly about mental health issues in this country
- 79% of teens surveyed wish there was an inclusive environment or safe space for people in school to talk about mental health.
- 70% wish their school taught them more about mental health and coping mechanisms
Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities
–Craig Brown, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County
For more articles out of New York, click here.