Since the beginning of the pandemic, as schools closed, sports involvement stopped, and hanging out with friends ceased, concerns were raised about the mental health of adolescents. To assess their impact, Van Beusekom (2021) reported on the healthcare insurance claims filed on behalf of adolescents from January 2020-November 2020 compared to those filed at the same time in 2019. Results indicated that mental health insurance claims rose sharply at the same time that medical claims decreased. Among those 13–18 years of age, insurance claims increased for the following mental health areas: self-harm, overdose-related, substance use disorders, generalized anxiety, major depressive disorder, and adjustment disorder. Mental health related conditions became the sixth most common reason for emergency room visits in 2020 and were 19% higher than in 2019.
Adolescents as Caregivers:
The pandemic also increased the stress level on those adolescents who identify as caregivers. According to De Marco (2021), more than 3 million children and teens assist an ill or disabled family member, and compared to non-Hispanic white youth, Hispanic and African American youth were more likely to be caregivers. Because of COVID-19 and school closures, more youth were not able to escape from the daily home stressors of caregiving by attending school or socializing with their friends. By being denied normal social experiences, their emotional functioning and overall development may be negatively impacted. Unfortunately, many state and national caregiving programs are designed for adults and not youth, and these younger caregivers do not obtain the support they need.
As schools closed during the pandemic, so too did SAT and ACT testing sites. Both exams are typically required for college admission applications, and consequently, colleges and universities needed to quickly move to a test-optional admission policy. As of March 2021, 1450 college and universities announced that they were moving to a test-optional policy, at least temporarily (Barber, 2021). This change for a more holistic view of applicants was endorsed by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and other academicians who have viewed the tests as culturally biased. For many low-income and first-generation students, the standardized tests are seen as barriers for entry into colleges due to attending lower-performing high schools, as well as not having access to expensive test preparation courses or tutors. Moving forward, college admissions officers will need to determine the best way to evaluate prospective students for entry, and some may no longer include standardized exams.