How Do You Coach Adolescents with Depression and Anxiety During this COVID-19 Season?

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

Do adolescents have psychological health problems during this epidemic viral season? For many of you who have worked with young people, psychological health problems, especially emotional disorders, are common among adolescents. The epidemiology of emotional disorders is greatly influenced by stressful events. No one will disagree this is a very stressful time for our kids; months of lock down will drive anyone insane. I came across a study that focused on the prevalence and social-demographic findings on the subject. I thought that sharing the results with you will prompt you to think of our kids in the United States and perhaps you can extrapolate from the data. However, I am looking for answers on strategies to optimize their mental health and not just identifying the presence or absence of mental health and adjustment issues with the lock down.

The article is titled: Prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of psychological health problems in Chinese adolescents during the outbreak of COVID-19. By Shuang-Jiang Zhou et al, from Springer-Berlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020. The topic is timely and the experience real as the virus originated in China. Hence they had the most experience with the lock down issues. Youths over 21 provinces from China (which is more than 80% of the land) participated in this on-line survey. A total of 8078 participants were involved in this study. The questionnaires were well established reliable instruments (PHQ-9) and (GAD-7)

Adolescents were surveyed on the prevalence of depression, anxiety or a combination of depressive and anxiety symptoms. Result: 43.7%, 37.4% and 31.3% respectively. Students aged 12-18 years were surveyed. Female gender was the higher risk factor depressive and anxiety symptoms. In terms of grades, senior high school was a risk factor; the higher the grade, the greater the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms. There were also regional differences; depressive symptoms were less (37%) in the city and those in the rural area (47.5%).

In addition to this study, we, health care providers, also notice a change in behavior among our adolescents; there is a drop in adherence to the use of medical devices or home retreat than before the COVID season. Depression and anxiety can influence their motivation to follow the medical regimen at home faithfully. In this case, many stop doing it.

As Salesians, what strategies should you come up with to help our adolescents?

Your homework assignment from the Care Ministry this week: please email our Care Ministry your intervention and plans in working with adolescent depression and anxiety during this COVID season.

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