Although it is still too early to celebrate a victory over COVID-19, the signs are promising. Between positive sentiments in the news and the policy shifts being made by several countries globally, it appears we are finally emerging from one of the worst pandemics in recent history. Particularly as vaccines, antiviral drugs, and monoclonal antibodies, together with preventative measures, provide hope that this challenging period may soon pass like the seasonal flu, allowing us to return to the lifestyle we knew. And the beauty is that technology, medicine, and scientific advancements have made this possible. In the US alone, the CDC estimates that there have been over 80 million cases of COVID-19 in the past two years, representing approximately 25% of its population. Despite this staggering figure, few people are aware of the public health crisis affecting an even greater percentage of the population. A crisis that’s been steadily growing over the last decade and has accelerated dramatically due to COVID. Although this other pandemic already has preventive measures and treatments available, they aren’t always affordable or accessible to all, leaving many to suffer alone with no hope or place to turn. This hidden pandemic is our mental health, and its full effects are only now being realized and understood. Rates of loneliness, anxiety, and depression have been on the rise for years, affecting everyone regardless of their standing in society. It is said that two out of every five adults currently report at least some symptoms. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Instead, we only need to look at the increase in violence, aggression, and hatred amongst people to see we have a societal problem on our hands. Everyone is on edge, from flight passengers to customers at the local grocery store, and some are acting on their frustration. Perhaps it was best summarized by the Washington Post – after two years of collective trauma, we are reaching a “breaking point.” As alarming as this is, one demographic struggles even more than the broader population: teenagers. They also often have the least support available to them. In 2019, even before the full impact of COVID was felt, one-third of high school students, and one-half of all female high school students, reported persistent feelings of sadness and loneliness. Just let those numbers sink in for a minute. Furthermore, the Washington Post reports: “Between 2009 and 2019, the percentage of teens who reported having “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 37 percent. In 2021, the figure rose to 44 percent.” Mental health is not just a crisis – it’s a pandemic. And something must be done. That said, there are numerous challenges facing the general mental health pandemic and even more challenges for teenagers. Unlike in the COVID pandemic, when access to preventative measures and treatments was unequal for a time before gradually becoming widely available, access to mental health care is severely limited and it’s only getting worse. So what are some of the challenges? It was predicted that by 2025, there will be 25% fewer psychiatrists in the US than the actual demand and that isn’t even taking into account general therapists, counselors, and behaviorists – nor does it consider the large impact of the pandemic. In many cities, the wait time for an appointment is up to one year, which is just not realistic for those who are suffering. The shortage of therapists is not the only problem. Even with an appointment, therapy can be prohibitively expensive. Appointments can cost between $100-$200 per session, and insurance companies often only cover a limited number of sessions or a maximum cost per year. So,  even with insurance and an appointment, it’s likely someone won’t be able to get the care and support they need due to financial constraints.  For teenagers who typically don’t have their own source of income, this can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. Even with financial support, teenagers still may not feel comfortable asking for help. The teenage years can be inexplicably difficult. It’s more likely for a teen to reject help even if offered, regardless how “connected” they are to their social networks (physical, not digital). Many just don’t see this as a safe psychological space. Worse yet, those spending a lot of time or seeking connection through social media are often the ones feeling the most isolated, anxious, or depressed. The dramatic increase in mental health issues among teenagers, the shortage of therapists, and the financial inaccessibility of care create an increasingly dangerous and unsustainable situation for an entire generation. Whereas technology has played a major role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t yet been as successful in helping us fight the mental health pandemic. Until recently, most technology-based approaches to mental health issues fell into two camps: mindfulness apps and telehealth apps.  Mindfulness, while useful, is not enough to support mental health as it’s merely a tool and not a complete solution. The content is often vague and isn’t tailored to each individual. Conversely, telehealth apps are more personal as they repackage what has been added to an online form – which gives the appearance of “being relatable.” While these apps offer access to a therapist from anywhere, they don’t solve the reality that the number of therapists is still limited and costs are still prohibitive. If we don’t want to lose an entire generation of teenagers to a mental health pandemic, we need a better way forward, and it can’t wait. It needs to be available to everyone regardless of location or financial status, and it needs to feel safe and accessible to teenagers. We think the answer is in using technology effectively, and that’s why we created Kai. Sources COVID Data Tracker – CDC                                                                                                    COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide – World Health Organization                                                                         Symptoms of Anxiety or Depressive Disorder and Use of Mental Health Care Among Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic – CDC                                                                      The pandemic has caused nearly two years of collective trauma. Many people are near a breaking point – Washington Post                                                                                     ‘A cry for help’: CDC warns of a steep decline in teen mental health – Washington Post                                                                                                                                                    Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health – CDC                                                 National Projections of Supply and Demand for Selected Behavioral Health Practitioners: 2013-2025 – HRSA Health Workforce                                                       More People Want Mental Health Treatment, But There Aren’t Enough Therapists – Healthline                                                                                                                                           How Much Does Therapy Cost? – Good Therapy                                                                  The Doctor is Out – National Alliance on Mental Illness                                                 Social Media and Mental Health – Help Guide                                                                      Role of technology in COVID-19 pandemic – National Library of Medicine                        Mental health goes mobile: The mental health app market will keep on growing – Deloitte Insights

More from our blog

References

  • Death by Information Overload

    Harvard Business Review

  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload

    Forbes

  • Cognitive Biases Cheat Sheet

    Medium

  • Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

    New York Times

  • Getting Things Done

    David Allen

  • Eat That Frog

    Brian Tracy

  • Personal Kanban

    Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry

Suggested
reading

  • Death by Information Overload

    Harvard Business Review

  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload

    Forbes

  • Cognitive Biases Cheat Sheet

    Medium

  • Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

    New York Times

  • Getting Things Done

    David Allen

  • Eat That Frog

    Brian Tracy

  • Personal Kanban

    Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry

Mindful living articles

  • Death by Information Overload

    Harvard Business Review

  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload

    Forbes

  • Cognitive Biases Cheat Sheet

    Medium

  • Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

    New York Times

  • Getting Things Done

    David Allen

  • Eat That Frog

    Brian Tracy

  • Personal Kanban

    Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry

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