top of page
  • Writer's pictureNatalie Tai

TAIWAN'S COVID AFTERMATH: TEENAGE MENTAL HEALTH

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

What does the Level 3 Epidemic Alert mean for teenage mental health?


As countries around the world have begun to see a dramatic decline of COVID-19 cases since the rise of vaccinations back in early 2021, Taiwan has been hit with it’s biggest spike in community outbreaks over the past few months. With cases growing exponentially during the midst of May, the government has announced to raise COVID control restrictions to Level 3 of the nation’s epidemic alert, putting kids across the country into their first experience with home-based learning. With online school being the new way of life for students in Taiwan, kids have began to adapt to the new definition of normality in isolation. Though the newfound flexibility granted at hand for students stands as a favorable aspect of remote learning for many middle and high schoolers, others have begun to feel the impending stress of isolation and tightened restrictions on social gatherings and distancing measures. Friendships and social networks have become increasingly vulnerable and difficult to maintain, adding on to the stress of academic and familial pressures students in Taiwan already experience. Among Taiwan’s teenage populace who already bear the brunt of inadequate access and advocacy for licensed mental health resources and professional medical advice, this pandemic has not only exacerbated the risks of mental health struggles, but have furthermore hurdled teenagers’ access to affordable and legitimate resources.


Why is this topic so important now?


The COVID-19 Aftermath: How has COVID affected teens around the world?


During the height of the pandemic in late 2020, it was reported that over 90% of schoolers (roughly 500 million) spanning across 30 countries were put into on an online learning system, leading to devastating repercussions on children's’ mental health and emotional wellbeing. Depression and several other psychological conditions have become one of the common responses to home-based isolation and other safety restrictions; in fact, the CDC’s reports show that in comparison to life before COVID back in 2019, emergency room visits due to psychological issues (depression, anxiety, trauma, etc.) in the United States increased at about 24% among children aged 5~11, and 31% among teenagers aged 12~17. Overall, visible cues of suicidal tendencies (thoughts, behaviors) had an overall increase of about 25% among teenagers in just a year.


How has Taiwan's teenagers responded to the new protocol?


Since the government’s issue of a level 3 epidemic alert in the May of 2021, Taiwan’s Child Welfare League Foundation (兒童福利聯盟) also reported to see a significant rise in calls from it’s helpline dedicated to 13-18 year-olds experiencing mental health struggles. Especially among middle and high schoolers, internal conflicts stemming from the stress of physical confinement alongside the technological, social and academic adversity have begun to affect the mental state of teens at home. To say the least, this pandemic has led to a chain reaction of distress from one to another, oftentimes provoking an unhealthy living environment for families. As parents take on new responsibilities of childcare, house-keeping, and financial duties, the risks of domestic conflicts induced by overwhelming pressure can become a recurrence for many.


The burdens of this pandemic and it’s subsequent protocols have bounded some of the only resources available to minors seeking means of mental health support and guidance. For many children and teenagers with a history of depression, anxiety, and or other psychological conditions, along with those living under conditions of domestic abuse and violence, the deprivation of an outlet for literal and emotional escapism have equated everyday living to plain survival. And with the estimated 300 thousand students in Taiwan that are no longer able to seek therapy, the demand for mental health resources are peaking in times of strained and limited outlets for help.


Why is mental health for teenagers so important during times like this?


As prefaced, mental health resources available to minors are tightly restricted under many circumstances. With the constitution demanding parental consent from minors for all medical treatments and prescriptions rightfully, psychiatric checkups or seeking licensed therapy has always been a struggle for those unable to get legal approval. Adding on to the reality of costly medical expenses for therapy sessions and other means of treatment, what’s left for this community becomes one of the two options: guidance counselors and suicide hotlines. Guidance counseling stand among some of the only resources available for teenagers seeking advice during the pitfalls along the journey of adolescence. Despite it’s relative convenience regarding open hours, payment, and confidentiality, the closing of schools has significantly hurdled its operation. Though schools have begun offering online counseling sessions through audio/video calls, the chances of kids reaching out continues to tumble as conversation surrounding the topic of mental health remains dormant not only in our personal social networks, but also within the educational sector and school faculty. Suicide helplines, however, continues to be one most reliable and accessible outlets for those struggling with mental health issues. With frontline workers and countless volunteers listening at the end of the line 24 hours a day for 7 days a week, resources as such stand as a vitality for teenagers in times of isolation.


How has the government responded?


Following the central government’s call for advanced COVID restrictions, the government website also updated it’s list of resources for those in need of mental health assistance. The significant inadequacy and deprivation of resources in regards to mental wellness has magnified the remaining distance needed to be walked in order to expel the existing stigma around mental illnesses, along with the need for mental health awareness among the young members of society.


The support from friends and relatives can oftentimes be more impactful than therapy. Starting from maintaining social relationships though video games, calls, or just a simple text can mean more than it seems. By offering an ear to listen, assisting to find the closest resources, or maintaining social relations through online gaming and videocalls can mean more than it seems.


Resources


Help is available. If you are struggling with mental health issues, it is encouraged of you to reach out to friends and family you trust, schedule a chat session with a guidance counselor or trusted teacher, look into psychiatric clinics near your location, or use the helplines provided below. You don’t need to be at your lowest point to reach out for help.


Resources from the Government Website:


To find all Psychiatric Clinics in Taiwan, (download pdf):


To find Clinical Online Psychiatric Counseling/Therapy, (download xlsx):


APP for Basic Assistance (not recommended for those needing serious help)


General Suicide Helpline:


1925, 1995, 1980


5~11 year-olds: (Mondays to Fridays, 15:00-19:00)


0800-003-123


13~18 year-olds: (Mondays to Fridays, 15:00-19:00)


0800-001-769

LINE ID:@youthline


LGBTQIA+


Services listed here:


Domestic Abuse Hotline

113


Parenting Inquiries and Assistance (Mondays to Fridays 14:00-17:00)


0800-532-880


References


Ming Zhu, Zhu. “COVID-19 Continues. Are you feeling depressed? Experts teach you how to break away from negative emotions.”, Taiwan News, 22 June 2021, https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/ch/news/4229280. Accessed June 30 2021.


Shu Qing, Wang. “Level 3 alert is extended, watching the news every day makes you anxious, experts teach you to find inner peace”, Health Media, 11 June 2021, https://healthmedia.com.tw/main_detail.php?id=49367. Accessed June 30 2021.


Shang Xuan, Wu. “The epidemic interrupted the mental health channels of 30,000 depressed students. The psychologist hurriedly shouted: always being blocked by regulations”, the Journalist, June 22 2021, https://www.storm.mg/new7/article/3766083. Accessed June 30 2021.


Xinci, Hong. "[The Melancholy Generation] Teenagers are suspended from classes... Staying at home all day 4 ways to avoid depression", VIP, May 27 2021, https://vip.udn.com/vip/story/121160/5487735. Accessed June 22 2021.

Comments


bottom of page