Imagine what it feels like to be a youth living in a constant haze during this pandemic. The burden of hours of schoolwork lingers inside your heavy mind. You have to build relationships remotely and ponder your future career. Self-consciousness, self-doubt and stress are distracting you. Your thoughts are overwhelmed with negativity. Melancholy begins to feel normal in conversations with friends and loved ones. Willpower and the motivation to act on it is diminished.

The term to describe this dreadful malady in society today is “depression.” This is a mental health issue that has plagued society, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to quarantine and undergo a plethora of lockdowns. There are a few types of depression: bipolar depression, a condition associated with extreme mood swings; persistent depressive disorder, a chronic version of depression; and clinical depression, which is by far the most serious category of depression.

According to a recent study by the University of Calgary, depression and anxiety in youth has doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels. One in four adolescents globally is experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms, while one in five is experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms.

It is imperative for society to tackle this issue, as the pandemic has instigated a global mental health crisis in youth. And the situation is only getting worse.

There are many potential solutions to this mental health issue. The first step is to create more awareness through open discussion and education at home, at school, in the media and in public forums. We need adults to be understanding and supportive of younger people so that they can open their minds and hearts to other trustworthy loved ones and friends.

Identifying unhealthy habits that have a high chance of causing depression, such as excessive gaming or exposing one’s mind to unhealthy material on the internet, will help improve physical as well as mental health.

We need to invest more money in counseling services for youth. The pandemic has disrupted the traditional model of in-office counseling services. While richer countries have moved to teletherapy, poorer countries have fewer options. A World Health Organization study shows that although 89% of countries reported in a survey that mental health and psychosocial support is part of their national COVID response plan, only 17% of those countries have full additional funding to cover such activities. Staffing shortages of trained counselors only add to the problem.

We also need to create safe environments for children and adolescents to speak up and not stay silent and grieve. We need to create forums to teach children and young adults hobbies and other interests that bring happiness.

All of the above are crucial steps in trying to cope with the depression epidemic and will improve the mental and physical well-being of people across the globe and create a society where young people can hopefully be more at peace.

Ryan Fernandes is an eighth-grader at Blach Intermediate School and a Life Scout.