Published on 07/28/20

Supporting youth mental health and well-being

By Courtney Still Brown

Whether going back to school means in-person or distance learning for the young people in your life, it’s a good time to remember to prioritize mental health. COVID-19 has impacted the lives of young people in many ways, and mental health is no exception.

A recent survey commissioned by the National 4‑H Council and conducted by the Harris Poll found that 7 in 10 teens are struggling with their mental health in the wake of COVID-19. More than half of the teens surveyed indicated that the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness.

To help youth cope with stress, the National Council for Behavioral Health recommends maintaining a routine, staying physically active, and limiting time spent watching or reading news and using social media.

Instead, encourage youth to express or channel their feelings through creative outlets. For younger children, this could be done through drawings or short stories. Journaling, playing music or creating art can be good outlets for older youth. It can also be helpful for youth to stay connected to others and talk about feelings or anxiety with those they trust.

Set the foundation for a good routine with good sleep. Middle and high schoolers need about eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

Parents should model good nutrition, physical and social activities in behavior and language. Avoid using food as a reward or physical activity as a punishment.

While many of the usual programs, sports or clubs that youth participate in right now may look different, the social and emotional support that these activities and relationships provide are still important. Encourage youth in your family to participate in activities they are interested in, even if they are remote or different than normal.

Your local 4-H program is also a great place to get or stay involved. For information on the current status of programs in your area, contact your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office by visiting

The following are a few mental health resources for parents and youth.

Courtney Brown is the Extension Healthy Living Specialist for Georgia 4-H and a registered dietician.

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