By: Brenda Teed, LSW, COVID-19 Social Support Coordinator & Preventionist

Teen Mental Health Crisis During COVID-19 Pandemic 

In a nationwide survey conducted by the CDC, over one-third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health and life disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Among a nationally representative sample of high school students in the US, 37% said they experienced poor mental health, and 44% reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. About 20% of respondents said they considered attempting suicide, and 9% had attempted suicide in the previous 12 months (Source:

Although the prevalence of poor mental health was high across students of both sexes, and all racial/ethnic groups and sexual identities, kids who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual reported higher levels of poor mental health and persistent feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness. These thoughts and feelings were less prevalent among students who felt close to people at school and who were connected to others during the pandemic. 

The data speaks powerfully to the impact that schools can have in mitigating the ramifications of the pandemic. 

Young people need all the support we can give them and here are some ideas how we can help. 

1. Know the warning signs:

  • extreme sadness and/or difficulty concentrating
  • trying to harm oneself or making plans to do so
  • sudden fear for no apparent reason
  • involvement in fights and out of control behavior
  • eating disorders
  • drug & alcohol use
  • mood swings and/or changes in personality

2. Know where to go for help:

  • school nurse
  • school psychologist
  • school social worker

3. What can we do:

  • educate staff, parents and students on symptoms of substance use & mental health problems
  • promote social emotional competency to build resiliency
  • teach and re-enforce positive behaviors and decision making
  • provide access to prevention services, mental health services and substance use services
  • Celebrate student diversity by creating programs and safe spaces that encourages connection and support for all students regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and spoken language.