Teen mental health impacted by coronavirus pandemic

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many setbacks for students, but the challenges often extend far beyond education.

Life for students across the country changed drastically with the switch to distance learning. Zoom became the norm, proms were canceled, and commencements were held virtually. And while it seems students of the digital age should have no problem with the changes, mental health has been a serious issue, exacerbated by the pandemic. NewsCenter1 held a live panel for a community united youth mental health discussion.

Jamie Toennies, the executive director for United Way of the Black Hills said, “We did our community needs assessment for the Black Hills last year. Mental health was the number one issue in every single community in the Black Hills, when we did that. So it was already a challenge, an issue that we knew needed to be addressed.”

Youth are often portrayed as being consumed by electronic devices and social media, but in person interaction is something that even they realize cannot be replicated. Community Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Youth and Family Services, Angela Roberts spoke of the importance of connection and interaction for students.

Roberts said, “The way they learn is with their peers, and the way that they interact with their peers really sets them up for success in the future, and not being able to do that right now is extremely tough on them.”

Students from the Rapid City Youth Mental Health Council were present to discuss the affects of the pandemic on youth, and found that difficulty connecting was a common issue. Although students made it through the year, they expressed their anxiety as school is right around the corner.

“It’s just not gonna be the same experience that I’m used to as I go back to school, and that worries me, because I was one who always used to really like the social interaction with school,” said Hunter Herzog, a senior at Stevens High School. “As the next school year comes, I feel like so many things are going to change that it’s just gonna be overwhelming once I get there.”

Fellow classmate Kaitlynn Willman also expressed her concern for the upcoming school year.

“Some of them didn’t do very well with the online schooling, and I didn’t do super well with it either, and a lot of them are felling anxiety about that,” said Willman.

School counselors and local organizations are working to alleviate any worries students may have returning to school.

Sarah Zimmerman, the social emotional education coordinator for Rapid City Area Schools said, “We’re going to wait until the final plans come out so that we can really tailor the interventions that will be needed. But I would anticipate really trying to identify early on kids that are struggling so that we can be proactive in reaching out to them.”

Representatives of the Rapid City Youth Mental Health Council will launch a podcast in August providing youth an opportunity to address their feelings regarding COVID-19 and mental wellness. Their first session will be a discussion on anxiety and social anxiety. Moving forward, experts remind both youth and adults, it is okay not to be okay, and to stay connected.


Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, South Dakota News