ERIE, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Although everyone has felt the effects of the pandemic, local psychologist and Penn State Behrend Professor Dr. Melanie Hetzel-Riggin says perhaps no groups has suffered more than high schoolers.
“It’s really been more challenging for teenagers and adolescents because they’re also going through the developmental period of learning about themselves and learning how to develop and maintain relationships. ”
She says students miss the stability of school and friends, with new data showing the pandemic significantly hurt teens’ mental health.
“You’re seeing rates of depression about 66% of high schoolers who took the survey in 2021. That’s just for Erie County. You’re also seeing higher rates of suicidality and suicide attempts.”
So as the pandemic drags on — and ripple effects keep spreading, she says communication is *vital. Many young people feel isolated and alone, and a simple conversation can be a first step to healing.
“Talk to your kids about what they are experiencing in school and with their friends, what concerns they might have. Try to find resources.”
But she says it not all bad news.
Children grew and learned during the pandemic, even if their schooling changed significantly.
She says young people *will bounce back– but they need some help to get started.
“We talk a lot about the negative effects of trauma, but a lot of us actually lean toward post traumatic growth. With the right supports, it can really allow kids to grow and become stronger individuals.”