This article first appeared in The Conversation and is republished here in a slightly condensed form under a Creative Commons license. It’s so important, it deserves to be widely read.
Previous CDC research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected girls. And in a 2021 study that our team conducted with 240 teens, 70% of girls said that they “very much” missed seeing people during the pandemic, compared with only 28% of boys reporting that sentiment.
Finally, we think that all young people are struggling with issues like climate change and social upheaval.
Here are six strategies that research shows can work.
1. More emphasis on social support
Social and emotional connectivity between humans is likely one of the most potent weapons we have against significant stress and sadness. Studies have found strong links between a lack of parental and peer support and depression during adolescence. Support from friends can also help mitigate the link between extreme adolescent anxiety and suicidal thoughts. In one study of teens, social support was linked to greater resilience – such as being better able to withstand certain types of social cruelty like bullying.
2. Supporting one another instead of competing
Research has found that social media encourages competition between girls, particularly around their physical appearance. Teaching girls at young ages to be cheerleaders for one another – and modeling that behavior as grownups – can help ease the sense of competition that today’s teens are facing.
3. Showcasing achievements
Thinking about your own appearance is natural and understandable. But an overemphasis on what you look like is clearly not healthy, and it is strongly associated with depression and anxiety, especially in women.
Adults can play a key role in encouraging girls to value other qualities, such as their artistic abilities or intelligence. Childhood can be a canvas for children to discover where their talents lie, which can be a source of great satisfaction in life.
One way that adults can help is simply by acknowledging and celebrating those qualities. For instance, at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, an organization we direct and manage that is focused on prevention of bullying and cyberbullying, staff members post female achievements – be they intellectual, artistic, scientific, athletic or literary – on social media channels every Friday, using the hashtag #FridaysForFemales. Continue reading “How to Help Girls (and Everyone!) Cope with Pandemic Depression”…