HealthONE - August 05, 2021
by Dr. Christopher Rodgers

No school for a month followed by classes over Zoom in pajamas— the 2020 school year might have seemed like an adolescent’s dream. However, experts are finding that there is a lasting impact of last year’s social isolation and it is continuing to take a toll on youth across the United States. During the pandemic, mental health insurance claims doubled for teens; overdose claims were up 100% and self-harm claims were up 300%. “We know that the 2020 school year was a rollercoaster for young people,” explains Dr. Christopher Rogers, a psychiatrist with the HealthONE Behavioral Health & Wellness Center, a campus of The Medical Center of Aurora. “Many adolescents missed formative social and developmental milestones such as homecoming games and dances, quinceañera, bar/bat mitzvah, prom and graduation events. Others simply retreated into themselves from the isolation and are still struggling with uncertainty as we head into the new school year.”

As children and teens return to the classroom in person this fall, the experts at the HealthONE Behavioral Health & Wellness Center are encouraging educators and parents to be on the lookout for telltale signs and symptoms of mental health distress. According to Dr. Rogers, warning signs may include one or more of the following:

  1. Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  2. Difficulty concentrating
  3. Sadness, hopelessness
  4. Irritability and frustration (when inappropriate to the situation)
  5. Changes in sleep—both insomnia or sleeping too much
  6. Lack of energy; difficulty in making decisions
  7. Changes in appetite—both eating too little or eating much more than usual
  8. Restlessness and agitation
  9. Feeling worthless, placing inappropriate blame on oneself
  10. Recurring thoughts of death, suicide

Those suffering from mental health distress are not alone. The HealthONE Behavioral Health & Wellness Center has outpatient programs in Ken Caryl, Centennial, and Aurora that are designed to strengthen the adolescent wellness journey through a comprehensive treatment approach. Using group therapy and coaching on an outpatient basis, adolescents are supported to achieve emotional regulation, positive coping strategies, effective communication and mindfulness. “We believe in holistic care, directly collaborating with key individuals at the school, with any outside providers and, of course, with the parents. This type of teamwork helps us plan for long-term success,” Dr. Rogers explains. “We also facilitate psychoeducation parent support groups within school settings that further build up a strong foundation around the students.”

Learn more or schedule an evaluation for your adolescent