ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – According to the CDC, 1 in 3 high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and teenagers in rural areas face even more barriers when seeking resources.
The CDC reported that 44% of high school students said they felt persistently sad or hopeless during the pandemic.
Joni Larson, and integrated health therapist at Sanford in Aberdeen, says this is especially true for minority groups such as African Americans and LGBTQ teens.
”That’s the one group that I see getting affected so much in our rural areas because it’s just not accessible to find clubs, groups, whatever you want that they might need,” said Larson.
A contributing factor to poor mental health among teens was the closure of schools, and therefore, the resources available.
”We’re lucky in South Dakota that we’re back in school. Use those resources. Go talk to your school counselor,” said Larson.
Without school resources, teens in rural areas might be hesitant to reach out to local resources due to fear of confidentiality being lost. Larson says even small-town counselors have ethics in place to prevent this.
“We are aware of our rural-ness and that we are going to cross paths with our patients. We just are. In order to keep that respect-level and the patients feeling safe, we have ethics we have to follow,” said Larson.
Larson recommended teens contact helplinecenter.org or dial 2-1-1 to find state resources that can help teens get in contact with mental health resources near them.
”Sometimes the hardest thing is to know where to go, so at the Helpline Center, we want to be that one easy place to go,” said Betsy Schuster, VP of Program Development at the Helpline Center in Sioux Falls.
Rural areas may lack in-person resources, but the Helpline Center can connect those teens to tele-health options.
”You may be thinking, ‘Well, I live in a small town. There’s just no options for me to go. Telemedicine has really opened those opportunities up to get care where you live,” said Schuster.
As for parents, Larson says there are signs to look for when teens are struggling with mental health.
“They’re suddenly isolating. They may be more irritable. They may get angered much quicker. Things like they don’t want to go and hang out with their friends or they may not even want to watch their TV shows,” said Larson.
If teens are experiencing suicidal thoughts, they can contact the Helpline Center crisis line.
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