Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/ 0000-0002-2033-7757


Year of Publication

2022

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on adolescent mental health. Though not considered to be high risk when it comes to physically contracting the virus itself, adolescents have shown to be significantly impacted by the indirect effects of the pandemic. Because of the unique and formative time, this is in their lives, adolescents are already vulnerable to the impact of social stressors. Risk factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic such as social isolation, disruption in routine, uncertainty, fear, and chronic stress have all proven to have a profound negative impact on adolescent mental health and overall well-being. It is of the utmost importance that mental health practitioners and the general public alike have a sound understanding of how the pandemic has impacted and has continued to impact this population. We as social workers are on the front lines when it comes to intervening in this growing social problem. Social workers within clinical settings have a unique role in helping these individuals increase resilience by enhancing protective factors and their ability to cope with stress. In addition, raising awareness of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial. Mental health is subjective in nature, making it hard to pinpoint one single intervention for declining mental health during times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that protective factors are the key to enhancing adolescent mental health during this time. Primary care settings play a crucial role in addressing this issue as physicians in these areas can identify those struggling with mental health and refer them appropriately to those equipped to intervene. Additionally, mental health providers in these settings can help to increase awareness of the needs of this population as well as provide mental health treatment. ii Research surrounding the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on this population is continuing to be formulated as the pandemic itself remains ongoing. Though conclusions can be drawn from what research is showing now, it may be years until we can truly see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent mental health. While protective factors shown to enhance mental health among this population are well-documented, what is lacking in the literature is the identification of “specific” factors that protect against increases in adjustment problems. When thinking about implications for clinical social work, practice, policy, and research moving forward important to focus on are specific interventions at both the micro, mezzo, and macro levels aimed at targeting this population. On the micro-level, crucial to explore would be specific clinical interventions aimed at helping adolescents across different backgrounds cope with the stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the mezzo level, an increase in mental health screening among this population could prove to be key to early identification and linkage to services. At the macro level, an increase in funding is crucial to better devote efforts toward this ever-growing social problem. The following capstone project seeks to further explore each aspect of this and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on adolescent mental health and functioning.

KEYWORDS: COVID-19, chronic stress, adolescent mental health, adolescent brain development

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