With the ongoing COVID pandemic comes a unique set of hurdles to mental health, and The Blue Dove Foundation gained some insight into the effect of these hurdles on Atlanta Jewish teenagers with a new survey created by 17-year-old Lili Stadler.
Stadler, who interned at The Blue Dove Foundation during fall, learned from many of her friends that they were struggling mentally since the pandemic. After experiencing some anxiety of her own, Stadler became curious about how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was affecting the mental health of her peers.
To learn more about how her fellow teens were coping, she created a survey, which garnered a total of 154 respondents, mostly Jewish, from both public and private schools across Atlanta.
The survey began with basic questions about age, gender identity, and where the respondent went to school. Then, the survey delved into deeper questions about whether, in the last six months, the respondent had experienced any stress (89 percent), anxiety (79.2 percent), depression (51.3 percent), mood swings (54.5 percent), substance abuse (5.8 percent), eating disorder (20.8 percent), or none of the above (6.5 percent).
From there, the survey continued with questions about which daily activities cause the most stress, and asked respondents to rank them on a scale of 1 to 5. The two most popular 5s were school (such as keeping up my grades, fitting in, extracurriculars) and the future (college, keeping up activities for college, internships, summer programs, applications).
When asked the most helpful ways to manage that stress, the most popular answers were time with family and friends (77.9 percent), personal time (94.8 percent), using electronics (89 percent), and enjoyable hobbies (82.5 percent).
What do they worry about the most when reaching out for help? Most respondents said they didn’t want to burden anyone with their problems (40.3 percent). A majority of respondents said they would feel comfortable reaching out to a friend for help (50 percent) as opposed to other sources such as parents (20.1 percent), siblings (3.9 percent), and teachers (1.3 percent).
Asked about the outcome of reaching out for help, only 27.3 percent of respondents answered that it made them feel a lot better, as opposed to the 41.6 percent who said it was nice to talk about it to someone, but it didn’t really change how they felt about their situation.
Additionally, when asked if a friend had ever come to them for mental health help before, 86.4 percent of respondents said “yes.” Of those, 42.7 percent of them responded that the people who came to them for help asked them not to say anything to anyone. And 41.2 percent of them responded that they didn’t know how to help because they had never spoken to anyone with mental health difficulties.
“Teens are clearly underprepared to effectively help their peers with mental health,” Stadler said. “Because of the difference between the number of people who would most trust a friend and the number of teens who feel ready to handle someone’s mental health concerns, it is clear to me things need to change.”
Stadler, who was just accepted to attend the University of Georgia, plans to major in psychology and hopes to minor in business.
“I’m very thankful for this opportunity to intern with The Blue Dove Foundation, and for the opportunity to create the survey and be published. It’s an amazing opportunity, and the results have been eye-opening.”
In general, Stadler reveals she has always been a passionate advocate for mental health. Stadler’s mother is a school counselor, which encouraged her to be open about her feelings from a very young age.
“There was never any stigma about discussing feelings in my home,” Stadler said. “The only thing I knew was expressing emotions and accepting the way others felt, too. It seemed crazy to me when I got older and realized that there were people who didn’t talk about their emotions.”
To view the full results of the survey and to learn more about the resources The Blue Dove Foundation offers, visit www.thebluedovefoundation.org.