We Are Not Crying Wolf; We Are Crying For Help

All of us have been deeply affected by COVID-19, through bereavement and/or the chaos that the virus has brought, but perhaps those who have felt the greatest negative effect are this nation’s teenagers, according to a recent Teen Vogue article. One teenager, Elias, lost both his grandfathers to the virus on the same day. The trauma has stayed with him ever since, with the terrifying image of his dying grandfather burned into his mind and giving him constant COVID anxiety. In addition, the inability to go back to a normal routine and the renewed isolation and panic after the advent of omicron have only contributed to the distortion of childhood years crucial to one’s development. Another teenager, Zandy, is disabled and suffers especially from society’s neglect of people like her. The CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, recently told the public that it was promising that so many COVID deaths were centered around disabled or chronically ill people, rather than healthy people – an explicit statement that disabled people are considered less than human. Zandy has heard from other people that it’s “just a cold” and it’s “not a big deal,” but the truth is she lives in constant fear of the virus and its threat to her. What is frustrating is that this suffering could have at the very least been reduced if society had only been less cruel. More generally, teenagers are suffering from the lack of social interaction, a crucial aspect of childhood, and the constant anxiety and uncertainty. Schools oscillate between online and in-person learning, every day we break a record number of cases, social isolation turns into social anxiety, and the hell that we are in extends indefinitely into the future. We need to do something, as soon as possible.

            This isn’t the first post I have made about the mental health of teenagers during the pandemic. To me, though, it demonstrates through example the effects of the pandemic. Personally, I haven’t been affected mentally that much by the pandemic. This is due to three reasons: first, I am a privileged, sheltered child who is free of socioeconomic troubles thanks to my parents. For this I am indescribably grateful. Second, I was never very social to begin with. I prefer to spend my time alone, and the daily social interaction that I do want is satisfied by the fact that the school I go to is consistently in-person – another result of the fact that I am extremely privileged and fortunate. Thirdly, nobody I am very close to is susceptible to COVID. My living grandparents both live far away, and my parents are both healthy enough that COVID is not a threat to them. Many millions of other children are not only not fortunate enough to have these supports, but also are more social than me. It was hard for me to imagine exactly how much the pandemic was hurting them, until I read this article. One teenager, Bella, developed social anxiety as a result of being isolated for so long. I cannot imagine the fear and sadness that Elias experienced as a result of losing two loved ones at the same time. What was most shocking to me, however, was Zandy’s story. I had no idea there was such blatant disregard for the lives of disabled people like her, and to hear that explicitly spoken on national television must have been not only horrifying but also terrifying, terrifying that the nation doesn’t care if she gets sick. The stories of these teenagers and the way that COVID is affecting them is just yet another reason to emphasize mental health.

mkahmon

I'm a high school student dedicated to stimulating conversation around mental health.

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