LOS ANGELES - The toll the pandemic is taking on our youth is playing out in households across the globe. A new UCLA study shows almost 50% of kids are struggling with mental health issues.
FOX 11 anchor Marla Tellez caught up with 12-year-old Curtis Simpson and his mother on the challenges of dealing with the pandemic as a youth.
Curtis previously took part in FOX 11's Your Take panel and caught our attention when he discussed the issues that most impact him and his family in South Los Angeles.
His words were heartbreaking.
"A lot of gunshots," Curtis previously told FOX 11. "A lot of car accidents."
His mom, Monicha Boyd, says Curtis can't even ride his bike around the neighborhood.
"I'm afraid of gangs," she explained.
Monicha, a single mother, reached out to FOX 11 to discuss Curtis' poignant moment that is their reality. The one that has only added to the toll the pandemic has taken on her son, who is a diehard Lakers fan.
"What has been the hardest for you?" Tellez asked Monicha and Curtis.
"Not telling me what his struggles were," Monicha responded.
"Being at home on the computer and there was nothing else for me to do," the 6th grader replied.
All that screen time, coupled with fearing the virus.
"I was really scared for my family," Curtis said.
Monicha said Curtis became depressed. He's far from alone. According to a new UCLA study, 45% of California youths between 12 and 17 years old have recently struggled with mental health issues, with nearly a third experiencing serious psychological distress.
Ontario and Corona-based psychologist Dr. Gloria Morrow says parents need to pay attention to the subtle signs.
"Such as them isolating in their room, not wanting to talk to anyone. Not wanting to come out to the dinner table anymore," Dr. Morrow said.
Dr. Morrow explained there is an increase in depression, anxiety and even suicidality among African-American boys.
When asked what could be done about the disturbing trend, Dr. Morrow said we must be creative in seeking coping mechanisms.
Some of the solutions go beyond seeking professional help. Dr. Morrow says leaning on community-based programs like YMCA or those offered through a local church is critical.
Monicha is grateful it never reached that desperate zone with Curtis and added she's also grateful they received support at their local Boys & Girls Club.
"It changed my life, really," Curtis said. "Now I have an outlet where I can talk to someone."
Staying active is also key. Dr. Morrow recommends adolescents walk outside at least 15 minutes every day. For Curtis, he taps into his inner-Mamba Mentality like his idol Kobe Bryant when he plays basketball and when he raps.
"Basketball is my life!" the 6th grader said.
Music and hoops have helped lift his youthful spirit.
"You do have an outlet. You don't have to feel alone" Monicha said.
"Curtis, is there anything else you want to add?" Tellez asked.
"Same thing she said," Curtis replied.
You can click here for more information on the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles.