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‘Mom, maybe I need to talk to somebody’: Pandemic affecting teens’ mental health

Ages 11-17 more likely to express symptoms of anxiety and depression

LYNCHBURG, Va. – You may have seen the report on NBC’s Nightly News: An emotional father going viral for sharing his grief, saying he had just interacted with his 12-year-old son minutes before he took his own life.

“Hayden’s story is going to be part of the pandemic. Suffering, depression, suicidal, acts of despair is what has happened in 2020 at a higher rate of what’s ever happened,” said Brad Hunstable.

The emotional and psychological drain can be felt in Central Virginia, too.

Kimberly Thompson is a mother of four, ages ranging from 6 to 13.

She says her oldest, Kyla, has been struggling with depression during the pandemic.

“It really, really put her in a trance. She came to me one day and just started crying,” Thompson said.

It was affecting her grades. An honor student for years, suddenly failing.

“She said saying, ‘Mom, maybe I need to talk to somebody. Maybe, mom, I can’t do this. I can’t do this!”

But the Thompson family is not alone. Behavioral experts with Lynchburg City Schools say they have seen an increase in anxiety and depression among their students.

“We can see that in the demeanor of our kids and the lack of motivation or the engagements within lessons,” said Latonya Brown, director of student services who works closely with school counselors.

To try and help, LCS uses daily check-ins. Brown encourages parents to look for signs and changes in their child’s routine.

“Pay attention to your child, spend time with your child, watch what your child is doing, watch for their natural habits. If they’re doing things that they normally do not do, and it spans more than two weeks, notify the counselor,” Brown said.

It’s advice Thompson says she uses with her 13-year-old daughter before things possibly get worse.

“I want her to stay connected because I don’t want her to drift off and feel like she has to take her life,” Thompson said.

If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.