NATIONAL (WEHT) – Over the past 2 years the pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, in particular our children. And new CDC data shows the effects it’s had on their mental health as COVID disrupts their lives at home and in school. News Nation Correspondent Markie Martin has more on the subject.

According to Martin, in an alarming new report released by the CDC, concrete data points to the havoc wreaked on teenagers during the pandemic. Almost 8,000 high schoolers from 128 schools across the country were surveyed a year after the pandemic’s onset.

Senator Patty Murray said, “As we all know, the last two years have been incredibly difficult in so many ways. But especially in children and youth. They’ve faced huge disruptions in their own lives….”

Martin says that in the study, 44% of students reported feeling persistently sad and hopeless. 66% said they found it more difficult to complete their schoolwork. Many also reporting economic instability, with one in four experiencing hunger. And 29% had a parent lose a job.

“I asked myself, do I need help? How should I know?” Said Claire Rhyneer, who was a high schooler in Alaska during the pandemic. She says over the years she has felt sad, lost, and even turned to self harm. In February, she testified before congress about the hardships youth and teens like her are facing. “Each night I wondered what was wrong, and in hindsight it is terrifying to know that I was physically harming myself and still unsure if I needed support.”

Martin notes that lawmakers and doctors heard Rhyneer loud and clear. Dr. Mitch Prinstein, Chief science Officer of the American Psychological Association, said, “It is absolutely critical that we discuss mental health in schools, that we are building into our curriculum social/emotional competence. We have the tools to build kids resilience.”

“You cannot believe your child if they say they’re okay, you have to pursue.” Said Jenny Dean Schmidt, a mother, author, and Executive Director of Channel Mom, whose mission is empowering parents to reclaim their voice with their children. “It’s okay to reclaim their authority and say hey I’ve got some views on this, I’ve got some views on how to cope with this, I still believe in you, I still believe in you and your future, you need to speak that positive outlook into your child’s life. And you also need to model it!”

Schmidt says communication is the key, that parents should get the kids talking at the dinner table, and if you notice your child is isolating, peel them away from screen time. CDC findings also show that students who have a sense of being cared for, supported and belonging at school have a better sense of well-being.