Health experts: COVID-19 pandemic could impact mental health of youth

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Experts warn the COVID-19 pandemic could have serious long-term consequences on young people's mental health.

Following a series of recent listening sessions, a study by Kaiser Permanente and Mental Health California says nearly a third of all high schoolers reported feeling sad or depressed in the last year for two or more weeks.

"As with COVID, we are beginning to see kids who are more disturbed and needing more support," says Dr. Stuart Buttlaire.

The findings show the global health crisis has caused an uptick in youth mental health issues over fear of the virus, loss of routine and disruption in education.

"Under COVID we have less structure, less social support, educational support, less resources with people who may have positive experiences," Dr. Buttlaire said. "I call them emotional buffers"

Without contact with these so-called emotional buffers, experts worry youth and especially at-risk youth may develop a sense of loneliness and fall into a deep state of depression.

"They might be coaches, teachers, religious leaders that help us buffer against stress," Dr. Buttlaire said.

Disadvantaged youth seem to be particularly at risk during this time.

Experts are now asking for a call to action to help youngsters who are the most vulnerable to stress

"Being involved in athletics, having coaches that understand you," Dr. Buttlaire said. "Really having friends and being able to connect with adults who you trust because trust becomes a crucial issue when trying to work with adolescents and children."

Many young people who were already receiving mental health treatment before the pandemic are now getting less support or none at all because of shelter in place orders.
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