We have had an unprecedented year. As the “pandemic persists, we are seeing the highest level of anxiety and depression reported since March 2020,” according to Paul Gionfriddo, President of Mental Health in America. Nationwide 47.1 million people are living with a mental health condition, a 1.5 million increase over last year, being fueled by isolation and depression.
In my home state of California, 4.6 percent of all teens experience substance abuse and 9.7 percent of youth have severe depression, while others report anxiety. Sadly, 64% of California teens with depression do not get help. In the City of Los Angeles 1 in 10 of Los Angeles’s youth attempted Suicide in 2019.
Not a day that goes by that I do not receive a call from a family in crisis. Since March 2020, my phone has rung off the hook with families crying out for mental health and substance abuse help. Youth are locked on Zoom, glued to their screens, using cannabis, and only coming out to roar like lions. As schools reopen, there are many reports that youth are afraid to go back to school and reentry is an issue.
Likewise, adults are stressed to the max. They are uncertain about earning and worried about losing jobs. They are concerned about loved ones who are exposed to COVID-19 or dealing with the tragic loss of those who have died from COVID-19.
The problem goes beyond California. The CDC reports:
- Alcohol and other drug use has increased during COVID-19 with rates 3-4 times higher than previous years
- Mental Health issues are increasing
- 7% of people contemplate suicide
- Severe interpersonal loss associated with COVID-19, along with social disruption, overwhelms the ways that families cope
The question is: what can we do to help our youth today?
Since the topic is vast, I want to address three common issues that families can address together – Sleep, Decision Fatigue, and Reentry Anxiety.
We know the importance of getting 8 hours of sleep a night. Have you had 8 hours of sleep each night during this pandemic? If so, you may be in the minority.
Why do we need sleep, anyway? Sleep helps us in the following ways:
- Empowers our immune system
- Our work is better after a good night’s rest
- Improves our mental health. Lack of sleep can cause feelings of depression, cause us to lose track of time, and interrupts our daily routines
- Other studies have linked lack of sleep with anxiety, bi-polar, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Being stuck at home, especially if our space has low levels of natural light, may reduce light-based cues for wakefulness and sleep (known as zeitgebers) which are crucial to our circadian rhythm.
Here are some easy tips to help you get your family on track with sleep.