As I write this article, I'm nursing the tail end of a mild bout of COVID-19. I don’t share that for pity but to point out how much the world has changed in the past few years. Before this decade, I didn't know what a novel coronavirus was. Everything I understood about pandemics was mainly picked up from disaster movies. Social distancing was only a dream my introverted wife possessed in her heart. And the virus that demanded fear as it first swept across the planet is now so common that it's possible to write an article while infected. Though we can celebrate the medical advances and technology that have helped us fight COVID-19, as the dust still settles on the pandemic, we are just now getting a real glimpse of how all this has affected today’s youth.
The CDC recently released a study revealing that over one-third of high schoolers have experienced poor mental health since the pandemic. At the same time, almost half acknowledge a persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness.[i] Perhaps these stats are surprising, or maybe they are not; teens’ general mental health and well-being were on the decline long before COVID-19. However, we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge the unique needs that young people now face. Though vaccinations and vitamins may combat the virus, it will take something far more powerful to heal these more profound ailments now facing teens’ interior life. To find the answers to the deepest sorrows of this life, we must turn our minds to the next one. The virtue of hope helps us do just that.
[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “New CDC data illuminate youth mental health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic,” CDC Newsroom, March 31, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p0331-youth-mental-health-covid-19.html