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Teen mental health now is more important than ever, given the impact of the pandemic, which has taken away the opportunities of growth in the real life world. There's been a significant increase in self harm behaviours in the last 2 years. As everything became virtual- academics, socialising, entertainment-this, in a way, took them away from the real world which has led to increased self doubts, poor frustration tolerance, poor emotional regulations and difficulty in coping with interpersonal relations with parents and peers. Besides, cases of prolonged physical and emotional abuse at home during the pandemic, poor attention and concentration, loss of interest in studies and poor academic performances were common. What is even more daunting now is the reluctance on going to the offline mode, that further indicates heightened social anxiety.
One big challenge for online classes was being conscious as to how one is looking in the camera, this surely has been one of the most stressful situations for girls and for boys. It's like you with a mirror in the classroom, very distracting and extremely distressing at the same time. Virtual classrooms failed to facilitate rapport formation amongst the classmates, leading to performance anxiety and privy to being judged by others.
Online relationships have become an immediate escape for teens. Online hookups without any contemplation for the future only leads to more complexities later on, while compromising safety and inducing poor self-acceptance. Increased usage of alcohol, weed smoking in teens (more common among boys), is now seen in girls too.
Eating disorder with heightened body dysmorphobia has increased mostly in girls, Thanks to social media partly, but this also is reflective of the family environment of excessive control. Increased exposure of adult sexual content has led to an early sexualization, which further has led to guilt and shame, engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour, which further gets complicated if one is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Given the challenges of modern times, our teenage population requires understanding and support from parents and school. The latter should not shy away from consulting mental health experts if they notice a change in their kid's behaviour.
(This article is authored by Dr. Preeti Singh, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Chief Medical Officer, Lissun)
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