Pandemic's impact on teens' mental health coming into focus

D’Ankya McGee, 15, (right) and Nick Kleiser, 16, (left) walk up the stairs at Treehouse. (FOX 9)

From loneliness to isolation, the pandemic has taken its toll on mental health. The global health crisis has been especially hard on teens.

According to the CDC, children's mental health-related emergency department visits rose 31 percent among 12- to 17-year-olds in April through October last year.

D’Ankya McGee, 15, and Nick Kleiser, 16, said at times, it was difficult for them during the pandemic.

"I did go MIA for a couple of months," said Kleiser.

"It was stressful, I felt like I couldn’t connect with some of my friends, I was isolating myself from others," said McGee.

More than a year into the global health crisis, the impact on teens’ mental is health is coming into focus.

"I think that we’re going to see higher rates of depression and anxiety and probably more suicidal ideations," said Sarah Fink, an area director at Treehouse.

Treehouse is an organization focused on uplifting teens. After months in quarantine enduring distance learning and other restrictions, she says demand for their service has grown.

"It’s more teens coming together, learning to relate to each other, learning to be there for each other, learning to hear each other well," said Fink.

During a year of challenges, Treehouse was a resource for McGee and Kleiser.

"Like I know they’re there for me no matter what," said Kleiser.

Both say they’ve reached a turning point.  

"They gave me a safe place," said McGee. "They’re really only my outlet and I feel accepted here and loved no matter what I was going through."

"If you feel like you’re along right now, all you have to do is talk to someone," said Kleiser. "That’s all you have to do."

Treehouse has been offering free peer support for decades. The youth organization is raising money right now through a virtual campaign called "Path to Hope Challenge."