New study shows link between youth mental health and the pandemic, with decline in substance abuse

MARYLAND – Across the state of Maryland, youth mental health issues are increasing.

The experts say that’s due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. While mental health issues are up, fortunately, substance abuse decreased among youth. “How many students in Wicomico County felt sad or hopeless, 9th graders 38%, 10th graders 35%, 11th graders 42.7%, and 12th graders 37.9% that’s pretty high, I think. These are our students,  our high school students,” says Cynthia “Cindy” Schifler, with the Wicomico County Health Department.

New data from the Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey and Youth Tobacco Survey shows the toll the pandemic took on kids’ mental health. Health officials blame what they call a lack of resources. “They didn’t have any support systems in place, their friends weren’t around they were kind of isolated from them if their parents were at home, they were doing schooling with them and that wasn’t the way they wanted to do schooling,” Schifler says.

She says parents should keep a close eye on their kids before it’s too late. “Parents I think to really know their children know their adolescence and if they see something say something, see a change in them to not think oh it’s nothing,” she adds.

Schifler says when mental health issues are overlooked suicide rates go up. The study also looked at a decline in substance abuse. One doctor says the stats might be dropping, but we’re not at the finish line yet.

“We need to have a more robust solution people need real treatment and a lot of times people are getting half treatment not the standard of care but we have to start with and recognize that there are solutions people can get better, people can engage in recovery,” says Dr. Michael Finegan.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Michael Finegan says it’s best to admit you’re having a difficult time and get the help that you need. “We all have challenges in our relationships we worry about things but it’s what we do with that worry and by reaching out and asking for assistance that’s how we can illicit support of other individuals,” says Dr. Finegan.

He also says learning better-coping skills for anxiety and anger can also strengthen teens’ mental health. The statistics in the survey can be found on the Maryland Department of Health’s website.

Categories: Check It Out, Health, Local News, Maryland