During a recent New York Times webinar
with psychologist Lisa Damour, teenagers and parents opened up about their struggles during the COVID-19 crisis. A ninth grader worried that her friend’s existing eating disorder would get worse. A mother anxiously asked how to motivate her adolescent child to get out of bed in the morning. And a trans teen talked about the difficulty of being forced to stay at home with an intolerant family.
For many young Americans, this pandemic has added enormous stress to an already difficult time of life. The social and emotional pressures of adolescence can be hard to navigate, especially in an era of on-demand information, smartphones, and changing societal norms. In the United States, one in five
adolescents has experienced a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, and the suicide rate among young people has been rising since 2007
Even before COVID-19, our country’s mental health system was not meeting the growing and changing needs of America’s youth and their caregivers. Millions of young people, especially youth of color and LGBTQ youth, don’t receive the mental health services they want and need. The reasons vary: they don’t feel comfortable asking for help or they don’t know where to get it; their families lack health insurance; or they live in a community that has a shortage of mental health providers. Additionally, with schools closed in 48 states and many community centers shut down because of COVID-19, young people and their families have lost traditional sources of support.
There is a clear need for new and innovative solutions that can support the mental health of young people both immediately and in the future. Pivotal Ventures partners with a number of organizations working on the front lines of this issue to address inequities in access to care, reduce the stigma around mental health issues, and provide young people and their caregivers with emotional and social support.
“For millions of young Americans, this pandemic is not just a public health crisis; it’s a mental health one, too,” said Dr. Renee Wittemyer, Director of Program Strategy and Investment at Pivotal Ventures. “COVID-19 has laid bare the deep inadequacies of our current system and made the work of our partners even more important. We are inspired by the ways they are stepping up to help more young people and their caregivers get the resources they need to take care of themselves and each other.”
Below is a list of resources from partner organizations to promote the well-being of young people.
Resources to help young people manage stress and anxiety:
JED Foundation Love is Louder Action Center:
The JED Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on preventing suicide and supporting the emotional health of young people. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has launched a robust resource center with self-care tools such as advice on mindfulness and exercise, tips to virtually maintain social connections, and contact information for organizations that can provide crisis support.
Hi Anxiety is an Instagram channel launched in the summer of 2019 to help reduce the stigma around anxiety and provide advice for young people to better cope with it. It features a steady stream of engaging content ranging from positive affirmations to testimonials from celebrities who share their experiences with anxiety.
This app encourages young people to tune into their emotions through meditation, breathing exercises, and other tools. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, MyLife has launched a new resource platform with activities that aim to help young people and their families feel safe and grounded.
Resources for young people looking for care and support:
Crisis Text Line:
Anyone who sends a text message to the Crisis Text Line is connected to a trained volunteer crisis counselor. According to the organization, 75 percent of people who text them are young people under the age of 25. In March and April, Crisis Text Line—combined with three other mental health organizations—experienced a 40 percent increase in texter volume.
MindRight connects teens and young people with a team of coaches via text message. The coaches provide support and advice, listen without judgement, and regularly touch base with students throughout the week. MindRight aims to leverage mobile technology to help young people, especially young people of color, navigate adolescence in a society struggling with systemic injustice.
Resources for young people who are feeling isolated and alone:
YR Media is a national network of young journalists and artists creating content that matters to youth. The organization has created an online space for young people to connect and share their experiences. During COVID-19, the stories have addressed the unique challenges they’re facing—from graduating high school without the traditional ceremonies to the stress of finding jobs in a time of physical distancing and high unemployment.
With many summer camps likely canceled, Connected Camps provides an online platform for children isolated at home to connect to other children and develop social skills and friendships. Through Connected Camps, young people get to play games like Minecraft with their peers and learn coding and engineering skills from expert counselors. College students also serve as volunteer mentors to the children, helping them gain leadership skills. In response to the outbreak, the organization is extending its gaming hours and training more counselors and volunteers to help.
Through its app, Novelly works to engage young people in civic dialogue. In response to COVID-19, the organization has launched a special curriculum that covers issues including xenophobia, mental health, racism, and structural inequality. It has also launched a youth writing competition so young people can share stories about their experiences during the pandemic.