Trails Carolina Releases Outcomes Which Highlight The Impact of the Pandemic on Students
Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for pre-teens and adolescents ages 10-17, has recently released new findings describing the impact of the pandemic on their students. Over the past 6 years, Trails Carolina has partnered with the Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Efficacy (CReATE; Asheville, NC) and the Arkansas Institute of Developmental Science to develop and execute a research initiative exploring therapeutic outcomes and impacts for youth and their families as a result of their participation in wilderness therapy.
As the pandemic began making an impact on everyone’s lives, Trails Carolina and Dr. Salli Lewis, Director of the Research Division and owner of CReATE, sought to examine how the global pandemic was affecting the population of families and young people seeking services at Trails. They analyzed data collected between April 2020 and spring 2021, comparing those participants to a matched sample of students, randomly selected from the hundreds of families who had participated in the study since its commencement in 2015.
“We found that children and adolescents are significantly more depressed, more anxious, and they are reporting significantly greater rates of suicidality,” comments Dr. Salli Lewis. “Children and teens are cut off from their social connections and their peer groups. They have been increasingly isolated over the last year, leading to an increase in screen time. Students have experienced a tremendous disruption in their lives in terms of academics, social interactions, extracurricular activities, and increased stress and conflict within their households.”
This has been particularly difficult for young people with pre-existing psychological vulnerabilities, such as depression, anxiety, or traumatic stress. These mental health challenges have been increasingly aggravated by the unpredictability, lack of control, family conflict, and stress associated with the global pandemic and its disruption in everyone’s lives.
“Kids who have unique academic needs are struggling tremendously as well because online school has a very high demand for executive function skills, including self-initiation and goal-oriented behavior,” says Dr. Lewis. “We know that a lot of students with learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders need significant structure imposed externally for them to be able to engage and learn. Environmental structure has virtually disappeared in online programming.”
Over the course of the pandemic, Trails Carolina has considered the many disruptions and changes occurring in the lives of families and students and has made changes to programming to meet evolving needs. For example, Trails began offering weekly Zoom mindfulness classes to parents, as well as increasing the frequency of therapeutic contact between the program and families last year.
For more information about the findings describing the impacts of the pandemic on students, watch Trails Carolina’s video on the topic.
Aboiut Trails Carolina
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy for pre-teens and adolescents ages 10-17. The clinically sophisticated and time-tested program engages students through wilderness therapy, mindfulness and yoga, equine-assisted therapy, intentional transitions, and academic engagement. Recent outcome research demonstrates efficacy. Trails Carolina was created to help families reconnect and heal. For additional information about Trails Carolina, located just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, please call 800-975-7303.