Covid 19 Pandemic has impacted the mental health of individuals of all age groups. Teenagers and adolescents between age 10 years to 19 years constitute about 21 percent of our population and mental health accounts to 16 percent of the global burden of disease and injury in this age group. Prevalence in India ranges from 6-12 percent. About fifty percent of mental health illness begins by the age of 14 years and three quarter begins by the age of 24 years.

After having an interview with the esteemed Dr. Himani Narula: Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician Director & Co-founder of Continua kids we learnt that there are various risk factors from biological factors like family history of depression, suicide or substance use, to some psychological factors like impulsivity, risk taking behaviors, perfectionist traits, low self-esteem and self-criticism or an early childhood trauma like a physical or sexual abuse that adds to the list of factors predisposing teenagers to high risk of mental illness. Apart from these, certain social stressors like academic difficulty, family conflict, parental marital discord, family violence, neglectful parenting or loss or parent, bullying, financial difficulties are adding to the brunt and increasing the risk of psychological disorders in teenagers and adolescents.

Covid 19 has added to these preexisting risk factors by limiting the available resources for instance financial constraints, job loss, social isolation with limited access to peer groups and trusted elders, limitation to open spaces for physical activities contributing to the risk factors. Covid-19 has also led to a huge impact on the environment of children and adolescents by disrupting their routine, increasing screen and gadget usage, disruption in the academic learning, engaging in high-risk behaviors and increased rate of abuse.

Mental health amongst teens is an important issue

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Some of the warning signs which we notice must alarm us to seek help from a professional are:

• Sudden change in sleep and appetite patterns

• Sudden change in academic performance or refusal to attend school

• Social withdrawal; loss of interest in all activities

• Indulging in high-risk behaviors like substance use, aggressive behavior, bullying

• Difficulty in peer interactions - not interested in other children; unable to make friends, social awkwardness, staying aloof

• Difficulty in attention - unable to focus on a task, leaves work incomplete

• Activity levels- either too dull or too hyperactive; cannot sit in one place, cannot wait for turn

• Academic difficulties - difficulties in reading, writing or mathematics

• Poor self-esteem- intense fear to do tasks independently, clinging to caregivers, low self-confidence, worthlessness

Low mood/sadness: In children low mood clinically manifests as crying, appearing dull at most times, poor frustration tolerance, irritability and

tendency for emotional outbursts.

Mental health amongst teens

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• Loss of interests in previously pleasurable activities: In children loss of interest clinically manifests as being disconnected, withdrawn and spending

time alone.

• Lack of drive, easy fatiguability

• Poor concentration/ attention, indecisiveness / hesitation

• Inappropriate feelings of guilt, self-reproach

• Hopelessness, death wishes, Suicidal thoughts/plans, suicidal behavior

• Repeated and excessive uncontrollable worries about a variety of topics,

events and activities lasting for more than 6 months

• Fear and avoidance of social interaction

• Strong belief that others will judge negatively

If any of the above warning signs are observed in teenagers and adolescents it must call for attention and the need to seek support from mental health experts and for more articles on mental health issues or more; stay tuned to HerZindagi