Teens struggle to cope with world 'turned upside down' by pandemic

After 4 months at home, Harshita Challa's family has started venturing out again, going hiking together, which, the 16-year-old laughs, is unexpectedly exciting.

"Because of after 4 months of not seeing a rock, I can't tell you how happy a rock has made me," Challa says.

The Milton High School rising junior and member of the Fulton County Youth Commission says one of the hardest things for her to cope with was how suddenly her world changed back in March.

"One day everything was working, and then the next day we woke up and our entire world was turned upside down," Challa says.  "It's been tough." 

There's the virus, now surging again in Georgia.

"The curve, the infection rate, I've never seen anything like it in my life, and I pray to God I will never have to experience something like this again," she says.

Without in-person school, Challa says, she's felt isolated and struggled with the sudden lack of structure in her life.

And, then there's the fear of getting sick.

"I remember there were times I was afraid to touch a doorknob," she says. "I was afraid to go outside because I would have to touch the doorknob going back in. And, just the absolute standstill that my life, that all of us, have gone to in the past four months."

family wearing masks

16-year-old Harshita Challa has begun hiking again with her family, after 4 months of sheltering in place at their Georgia home. (Harshita Challa)

Challa is journaling each night, and connecting with school friends she cannot see in person on Zoom.

Tuesday, she will be a part of an online "Community Conversation" for teenagers and their parents, sponsored by the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Director LaTrina Foster, who will moderate the conversation, says she wants to reassure teens it is “okay not to be okay” right now.

"You're not the only teenager who is struggling," Foster says. "You may have a feeling of sadness; you may have feelings of anxiety.  You're not the only one.  And, that's why I beg of you to tune in and listen to this community conversation, where you can hear from other teens, just like you. We're all in this together, and together we'll make it work."

Harshita Challa says there is a lot to talk about and she hopes teens and their parents will join in on the online event.

"Now that we're starting to get back into the groove of things, the biggest thing that I see is you can't live your life in fear," Challa says.  “That goes for me and for everyone.  For me, the biggest step is how do we move on?  How do we go back to that normal?  And it can't be the same normal that we came from, because that's what landed us in this pandemic."

The Community Conversation begins at 1.p.m. July 21, 2020.

The conversation can be viewed on the Fulton County Government TV YouTube channel.

Parents and teenagers can submit questions beforehand by emailing social@fultoncountyga.gov.

All questions can be addressed anonymously.