Teen starts support group to help out others infected by COVID-19
Hendrik Sybrandy

“I tested positive for COVID on October 26th,” said Marlo Weber, a Colorado teenager who experienced some of the same symptoms felt by others who’ve had COVID-19.

“It just felt like a really, really bad cold,” she said. “I had a fever for some of the days. The weirdest symptom was definitely that loss of taste and smell.”

The toughest part for the 16-year-old was the time spent in bedroom quarantine right after her diagnosis, the isolation.

“Those 10 days, it was pretty lonely and really boring,” Weber said.

So much so she decided to start a support group for teenagers like her with COVID. She views Teens With Covid as a way to cope with that isolation period and beyond.

“I think it’s really important to make these connections and help people feel like they’re not alone cause those ten days can be long,” she said.

This pandemic has been long and difficult, particularly, according to one study, for teens, whether or not they’ve had the disease. A survey by America’s Promise Alliance found just under a third of those ages 13 to 19 say they’ve felt more unhappy or depressed in recent months. A similar number don’t feel connected to classmates or their school community.

“One of the most important pieces that can help teens stay resilient is social support,” said June Gruber, who teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder.

She said social interactions are particularly critical in that age group but in this age of social distancing are much more fleeting for people in general and that’s causing all kinds of problems.

“Severe depression, severe anxiety, we’re seeing suicidal ideation also on the rise,” Gruber said. “Really scary sorts of outcomes and we need to find a way to address them before they get even worse.”

Gruber and three dozen other clinical psychologists recently issued a call to action, demanding that much more attention be paid to mental health, that physical health isn’t the only thing we should be worried about during this crisis.

“There’s going to be some nuanced decisions we need to make at times and that it’s not always choosing one over another,” she said.

For example, she believes we need to better understand the risks of the virus at schools which are so essential to adolescents.

“So how can we support that piece of their life while also keep our community safe?” Gruber said.

She applauds the support group idea.

“You can choose the option of yes I’m in isolation, and I’d love to connect with someone who knows what I’m going through, has either had COVID or currently has COVID,” Weber said.

The Colorado high school junior, now recovered from her illness, is working to expand her group on various social media platforms. Teens With COVID serves as an outlet during a pandemic that seems to never end.

“It’s definitely been hard for me and my friends,” Weber said. “We’re in a period of waiting."

“And then when it keeps getting extended, it gets harder and harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel I think.”

What better time, she figures, to connect those with similar experiences, at similar points in life, and make their days a little less solitary. 

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