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Redistricting Changes Assembly Seat

File Photos Under redrawn districts, Judy Chu will seek to continue representing South Pasadena this year, while Anthony Portantino's term runs through 2024.

First published in the Jan. 28 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

The recent state redistricting process will change South Pasadena’s state Assembly representative this year while placing the city in regions with significant Asian American populations.
Specifically, following this year’s elections, South Pasadena will no longer be represented by state Assemblyman Chris Holden of Pasadena. It will instead fall under a new district whose representative has yet to be determined.
The new maps of the state’s political districts, which an independent California commission draws following each U.S. Census, largely incorporate South Pasadena with its San Gabriel Valley neighbors to the southeast. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission submitted its final maps — which will remain in effect for the next decade — in late December. Besides setting the stage for a change in cities’ representatives following this year’s elections, in some cases, the new maps alter the voting populations of each district, potentially strengthening or weakening certain groups’ political influence.
In South Pasadena’s case, all three of the boundary changes include the city in districts with major Asian American populations.
The redrawn lines, which go into effect with the June primary elections, situate South Pasadena in Assembly District 49, which includes El Monte, Monterey Park, San Marino and Alhambra. South Pasadena is currently in Assembly District 41, which includes Pasadena and Altadena.

File Photos
Under redrawn districts, Judy Chu will seek to continue representing South Pasadena this year, while Anthony Portantino’s term runs through 2024.

Former Assemblyman Edwin Chau may have represented South Pasadena and other cities in the 49th Assembly District, but he resigned in December to become a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. Voters of Chau’s former district are slated to vote in a primary election in February and a general election in April for his successor. Because those elections will occur before the new Assembly District 49 boundaries go into effect, according to Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk spokesman Mike Sanchez, South Pasadena residents will not be able to vote in those elections.
Whoever wins the race will fulfill the remainder of Chau’s term, which ends at the beginning of next January. Residents of South Pasadena and the rest of the 49th Assembly District will vote for their next representative in the June primary election and potentially the November general election.
South Pasadena’s congressional district will largely remain the same, though it will be renumbered from the 27th Congressional District to the 28th and will add La Cañada Flintridge. U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, a Monterey Park Democrat, said she is running for reelection this year to oversee the district.
Senate District 25, which includes South Pasadena in both the current and future maps, will lose Burbank and Sunland-Tujunga while gaining Arcadia, Monterey Park and Rosemead. State Sen. Anthony Portantino, who currently represents the district, will continue to do so through at least 2024.
All three of the new maps place South Pasadena in boundaries with noticeably concentrated Asian American voting populations. About 9.9% of voting-age citizens in Assembly District 41 identified as Asian, according to Census estimates used in the 2011 redistricting process, while the same population has an estimated share of 52.9% in the new district. Additionally, Hispanic voting-age citizens increased their representation from 23.4% to 28.1%.
About 11.5% of voting-age citizens in Senate District 25 identified as Asian, while an estimated 30.3% of voting-age citizens of the newly drawn Senate District 25 identified as the same.
Congressional District 27 already had a significant citizen voting-age Asian population, about 31.6% around the time of the 2011 redistricting. Congressional District 28 has an estimated 35.3% population for the same group.
However, because the population estimates were reported in 2011, it’s unclear how much of the shift resulted from redistricting rather than demographic changes that have occurred since then.
More than one-third of South Pasadena residents identify as Asian, according to 2020 Census estimates, not including those who identify both as Asian and another racial group.
State law requires the CRCC to draw district lines by certain criteria, with the foremost guidelines being that boundaries must have roughly equal population and comply with the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits redistricting that discriminates on the basis of race. The CRCC also cannot draw boundaries based on communities’ relationships with their current political representatives.

Former Resident Helps Create Nature Preserve

Photo courtesy Jenna Schoenfeld Frank Randall, a South Pasadena native, and wife Joan recently created a 72,000-acre nature preserve in the Tehachapi Mountains with a $50 million donation.

First published in the Jan. 28 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

By Jonathan Williams
The Review

Frank Randall, before growing up in South Pasadena, was auspiciously born on Earth Day. Later in life, he and wife Joan would continue to call Southern California their home.
In December, the nature and outdoors enthusiasts donated $50 million to help preserve it in a big way — by creating what will be the Nature Conservancy’s largest preserve in the state.
The Nature Conservancy recently announced the Frank and Joan Randall Preserve, which spans 72,000 acres or 112 square miles in the Tehachapi Mountains and connects four critical ecological regions in the Sierra Nevada, Mojave Desert, central valley and south coast. The preserve lies just 100 miles north of downtown Los Angeles and will protect some of California’s “most crucial wildlife and most biodiverse landscapes,” according to the conservancy.
“Open spaces are special, and once they’re gone, they’re forever gone,” Frank Randall said in a statement.
“We’ve already impacted our natural lands in ways we don’t even realize. We need to make sure the legacy we’re leaving behind for our children and grandchildren is one that incorporates wild areas, and nature, to ensure this planet will be resilient for generations to come.”
Frank Randall grew up an avid sailor and is a U.S. Navy veteran, ultimately retiring from the Naval Reserve as a lieutenant commander. Growing up, he spent much of his time as an avid backpacker and has covered nearly 250 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
He was also a stockbroker, starting his career in Reno, Nevada, and returned to the area after his father died. Ultimately, Frank Randall decided to stay in California and made his fortune in commercial real estate.
Joan Randall graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and volunteered for the Environmental Nature Center and the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center.
Together, the couple traveled to places such as Antarctica, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Australia and Tahiti. Currently, they reside in Newport Beach and have a ranch near Warner Springs in San Diego County.
“We are in a race with climate change … with biodiversity loss … a race to ensure that people and nature can thrive on this planet,” Frank Randall said. “In my lifetime, I have witnessed massive changes in the state of nature and have seen open spaces disappear across Southern California. Time is not on our side. We need to act now. That’s why Joan and I are so excited to see this preserve come to fruition and to know we made every effort to ensure this special place will be here and in good hands now and into the future.”
The project was also funded by public and private donors, including the Wildlife Conservation Board, the U.S. Department of the Navy, Caltrans, Resources Legacy Fund, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Frank and Joan Randall last year donated another $50 million to the Trust for Public Land to help protect the Banning Ranch area of wetlands and coastal bluffs in Newport Beach.
Mike Sweeney, the executive director of the Nature Conservancy in California and managing director of global fisheries, praised the Randalls for their efforts to preserve the Tehachapi region, described as “a critical piece of land that will promote the movement of wildlife between Northern California and Southern California.
“What is striking about the Randall Preserve and this area of the Tehachapis is not only its rugged beauty but also its unique topography,” said Sweeney in a statement.
“It goes from these very high elevations where you can see snow, all the way down to the Mojave Desert and the Central Valley, and everything in between. This preserve will also ensure a much-needed corridor for wildlife, like endangered mountain lions to the south, so they can mix and move, migrate and adapt.”
Cara Lacey, the director of the wildlife corridors and crossings team for the Nature Conservancy in California, said she started with the project in 2016 and remembers meeting the Randalls when they visited the site for the first time.
“They were very knowledgeable,” Lacey said. “They were stewards of the land and excited about the potential to protect something that could be so expansive, so large and to leave this amazing legacy. They were really kind and really sweet people. That was my impression of them. They realized they really wanted to fund the work here in this location.
“It’s really an absolutely special place,” she added. “It has a variety of diversity of plants, animals and everything converges here. If you take a look at this place, it’s beautiful. You’re just moving through this pastoral, picturesque landscape. It’s outstanding but until you actually get into it on the ground … being able to see this place is what really means the most to me.”

City Oks Historic Property ADU Measure

First published in the Jan. 28 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

The craftsman bungalows and Spanish colonial revival homes nestled along quiet, tree-lined streets have made South Pasadena one of the most identifiable cities in Los Angeles. Residents and film crews alike have been drawn to its charm.
“The built environment in any place is what gives it its character,” Mark Gallatin, president of the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation, said. “It really is kind of the soul of the community.”
With the city’s latest housing element, a new type of building is being welcomed to South Pasadena’s architectural landscape: the accessory dwelling unit (ADU).
According to South Pasadena’s 2017 Historic Resources Survey, there are 2,718 properties in the city that are identified as eligible contributors to historic districts, with most properties being residential.
Through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), the state has allocated 2,067 new housing units to be built in South Pasadena in the next eight years. With so much new housing on deck, there’s a good chance that units will be popping up on historic properties in the form of ADUs.
However, Gallatin doesn’t expect the architectural integrity of the city to be compromised. According to him, variations of ADUs have been around for hundreds of years.
“If you look at old building permits from the turn of the 20th century, you’ll see references to things like carriage houses or guest houses,” he said, “essentially describing what we today would think of as an ADU. In other words, a small separate dwelling unit physically apart from the main house.”
The difference between those early variations of accessory housing and the ADUs we know today, according to Gallatin, is consistency of style with the primary dwelling unit.
South Pasadena’s City Council unanimously approved an ordinance last week that features guidelines to ensure that ADUs reflect the style of South Pasadena’s signature architecture, should owners of historic properties choose to build one.
The community development department formed a set of examples with exterior design that historic property owners can abide by when building an ADU. It encourages a simplistic style similar to that of the primary dwelling.
More specific guidelines indicate that ADUs should be at the rear of the property, unless the primary dwelling sits at the rear of the lot. ADUs can also be up to 1,200 square feet and should be subordinate in terms of size to the primary dwelling. With some exceptions, ADUs have height requirements, with one-story buildings expected to be 16 feet tall and two-story buildings 18 feet tall.
The guidelines were developed based partly on input from the community and discussions at joint meetings between the cultural heritage commission and the planning commission so that residents’ values could be considered.
Gallatin, who is also the vice-chair of South Pasadena’s cultural heritage commission, sees it as one of many attempts by the city to preserve architectural character. The Historic Preservation Ordinance passed in 1992, the Historic Resources Survey and the creation of the cultural heritage commission have all played major roles as well.
“The fact that we have done such a fine job in South Pasadena of preserving our built environment, preserving our historic character,” he said, “it didn’t happen by accident.”

Public Input Key to Redrawing Council Maps

First published in the Jan. 28 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Community input remains as important as ever as the City Council continues to work through South Pasadena’s redistricting process.
The council last week held its second of four public hearings to help determine which neighborhoods and communities of interest will ultimately be considered when assembling the new council district map. The final iteration of the redistricting is due in April.
“My advice to you would be to find a concept, find your neighborhoods that are overriding, and find a map that fits that,” Ken Chawkins, consultant for the National Demographics Corporation, told the council last week. “If they are out of population balance, give it to us to pinch and tuck and adjust so that it fits within the 10% population balance. The most critical part is to build from the communities.”
Multiple communities of interest have been identified so far based on public input, including geographic areas drawn by certain road or development patterns. Other characteristics, such as traffic patterns, school attendance zones and clusters of homeowners or renters can also be used to define communities of interest.
Each community of interest can be grouped based on geographic area, a shared issue or characteristic, shared social interest or shared economic interest. The goal is to keep these communities together when new districts are determined.
“I do think it is helpful for us to ensure that each district has at least some commercial area,” Councilwoman Diana Mahmud said. “We’re a small city. We’re coming out a pandemic. Economic development will continue to be important. We ought to try to include at least some commercial aspect in each district.”
The city could opt to follow an example set by Pasadena. There, each district touches Colorado Boulevard so that every district has a connection to commercial and economic interests.
Residents are encouraged not only to share their thoughts on what the communities of interest should be, but also design maps of their own using one of the mapping tools available on the city’s redistricting website, southpasadena.gov/redistricting. Paper maps are also available.
“I really would encourage you to push your residents into just feeling it, touching it and asking questions,” Chawkins told the council. “It feels like a lot, but once they get in it, it’s a lot more attainable than you think.”
Chawkins recently helped the South Pasadena Unified School District complete its first political districting process, after it elected board members at-large previously. The city would have difficulty simply emulating SPUSD’s new boundaries, as school districts tend to have slightly different borders from their cities and have different representation goals and interests. For example, SPUSD aimed to have each board member represent at least two elementary school attendance areas and each of those zones to have at least two board members.
When drawing maps, residents are asked to follow federal regulations to keep districts at a roughly equal population and to avoid gerrymandering. Additionally, state laws dictate that districts must be geographically contiguous, compact and have boundaries that can be easily identified.
With a considered population of 27,020 residents, the city should have five districts that include about 5,404 residents each. Although deviations are inevitable, each district is required to fall within a certain percentage of difference.
The city is also accepting input by email at redistricting@southpasadenaca.gov and by phone at (626) 403-7230.
There will be a virtual workshop hosted by the city at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31, to review the process of redistricting and communities of interest submissions. Tutorials on map-drawing will also be given at the workshop.
The deadline for the city to submit a final map is April 17.

Zane Hill contributed to this report.

Pasadena Showcase Hosts Annual Empty House Party

Photo by Toni LeBel / The Review South Pasadena residents who attended the Empty House Party for the Pasadena Showcase House of Design included James Hernandez, Dana and Larry Abelson, and April and Dwight Bond. For the first time in 40 years, the organization’s featured house is in South Pasadena.

First published in the Jan. 28 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

In a triumphant return to its annual soiree, the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts recently hosted its Empty House Party, where a crowd of design enthusiasts, patrons and members of the group participated in the festive event.
The annual tradition celebrates the night before designers begin their work to transform a mansion that will debut as the Pasadena Showcase House of Design.
For the first time in 40 years, the 2022 Showcase House will be held in South Pasadena at Oaklawn Manor, a stately 1905 English Tudor.
The soiree, chaired by Marybeth Rehman-Dittu, Kerri Terrill and Shari Domenghini, treated guests and media to a sneak peek of the mansion featuring baronial-sized rooms, historic stained-glass windows and floor-to-ceiling travertine fireplaces.
During the evening, guests mingled among the 20-plus design spaces, viewing various design concepts and installations while enjoying an impressive selection of culinary offerings from local favorites Fish King, Kogi, Mijares Mexican Restaurant and Porto’s Bakery. A lively jazz trio also entertained guests during their tour.
“We were thrilled to open this lively event to the public for the first time, welcoming guests for a sensory experience with music, food and design,” said event chair Marybeth Rehman-Dittu. “It was important to us to make this event about the community and to support local vendors. We will continue that spirit when the Showcase House opens in April with programming planned to highlight local musicians, speakers, special tours and more.”
Following just four short months of renovation, more than 25,000 guests will tour through the impressive interior and landscape design spaces, highlighting cutting-edge trends in high-style living. Guests can expect the famous “Shops at Showcase,” offering a variety of boutique and craft merchants, as well as several on-site restaurants.
The 2022 Pasadena Showcase House of Design will be open from April 24 through May 22 (house tours are closed on Mondays). Tickets, ranging from $40-$50, will go on sale on Wednesday, Feb. 9, with a special presale beginning Jan. 26, at pasadenashowcase.org.
Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, has been supporting local music and arts programs since 1948. With the hard work and dedication of its 200-plus members, the organization raises funds from its major benefit, the Pasadena Showcase House of Design — one of the oldest, largest and most successful home and garden tours in the country.
Throughout its history, Pasadena Showcase has given more than $23 million to nonprofit organizations, particularly through its Gifts & Grants program, in support of music education, scholarships, concerts and music therapy, while continuing to support the LA Phil and its learning programs for which the organization was first founded.
Pasadena Showcase also nurtures the study and appreciation of music among young people with its three annual music programs: the Music Mobile TM , which has introduced orchestral instruments to more than 125,000 3rd grade students; the Instrumental Competition, which has awarded more than $650,000 in monetary prizes for exceptionally talented young musicians; and the Youth Concert, which has brought nearly 250,000 fourth graders to Walt Disney Concert Hall for exuberant performances presented by the LA Phil.

New Chief City Clerk Joins Management Services Department

Tameka Cook

First published in the Jan. 21 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Tameka Cook recently became the new chief city clerk in the Management Services Department.
Cook has more than 10 years of combined experience in local government and public education. She obtained her bachelor’s in public sector management from California State University, Northridge. Currently, she is pursuing her MBA and will graduate in the summer of 2022 from the University of Phoenix. She is also a certified municipal clerk and notary public.
In her spare time, Cook enjoys pursing her hobbies of art and interior design, as well as spending time with her family and German shepherd.

City Hires New Deputy Manager

Domenica Megerdichian

First published in the Jan. 21 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Domenica Megerdichian was recently hired as deputy city manager for South Pasadena.
Megerdichian is experienced and skilled in city leadership and management; land management; grant writing; contracts negotiations and management; strategic planning; community and economic development; community outreach and engagement; special projects; and citywide events.
Bringing a dynamic, proactive, team-oriented and solutions-based approach to her work and to the agency, Megerdichian has worked for four Los Angeles-area municipalities. She most recently served as the economic development manager at the city of San Gabriel, where she focused on business service, attraction and retention to stabilize and grow the local economy during COVID-19. At the city of Torrance, she served as the management associate and oversaw land management, focused on economic development efforts and served as liaison to the city’s Social Services Commission, Homeless Task Force, and led the interdepartmental Economic Development Team. Megerdichian has previously worked for the cities of Glendale and West Hollywood in city clerk’s elections and City Council support roles, while pursuing her graduate degrees.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in media studies and social anthropology, a master’s degree in public administration with a focus on public sector leadership and management from California State University, Northridge, and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, with a focus on community and economic development from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Most recently, Megerdichian completed the USC Ross Minority Program in real estate.
Megerdichian is married to a fire fighter/paramedic, she is a mom to a 2-½-year-old toddler and a 5-year-old pitbull rescue, and is raising her family in the San Fernando Valley.

South Pasadena Police Department Crime Report

A 26-year-old Los Angeles man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after being pulled over at 10:54 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19, near Fremont Avenue and Oak Street.

A 30-year-old Barstow man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after being pulled over at 3:03 a.m. Friday, Jan. 21, in the 1500 block of Meridian Avenue.

A 44-year-old Los Angeles man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after police responded to a report of an unresponsive driver at 4:04 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23, in the 100 block of Pasadena Avenue.

A Honda Accord sedan was reported stolen from where it was parked in the 1100 block of Fremont Avenue between 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, and 9:45 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 22.

Catalytic converters were reported stolen from the following vehicles:
• A Toyota Prius parked in the 1900 block of Hill Drive at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21
• A Toyota Prius parked in the 300 block of Raymondale Drive sometime from 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22

Tools were reported stolen from a locked storage compartment to a Toyota Tundra pickup truck that was burglarized where it was parked in the 200 block of Monterey Road sometime between 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, through 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19.

A purse containing a wallet, money and debit cards was reported stolen from a Toyota RAV4 that was burglarized after a thief shattered a window where the vehicle was parked in the 100 block of Marmion Way sometime from 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, to 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19. The debit cards were later used for attempted fraudulent transactions.

Car seats were reported stolen from an unlocked Toyota Sienna minivan parked in the 2100 block of Pine Street sometime between 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, and 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19.

Mail was reported stolen from a mailbox in the 1800 block of La Manzanita Street sometime between 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, and 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 22.

A 33-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting alcohol from Rite Aid on Fair Oaks Avenue at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 24.

A 19-year-old Duarte man was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public after allegedly refusing to leave a business and arguing with employees at 9:48 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19.

A Lexus GX 460 SUV was reported stolen from where it was parked in the 1300 block of Lyndon Street sometime between Dec. 10 and Dec. 25.

These alleged crimes and incidents were reported to the South Pasadena Police Department between Tuesday, Jan. 18, and Monday, Jan. 24. Information was gathered from a weekly crime summary published by SPPD’s Crime Prevention Unit.

Carolyn J. Adrian | Obituary

Carolyn J. Adrian

Raised in the Seattle area, Carrie studied at the University of the Americas in Mexico City where she received a B.A. in International Relations.
Carrie worked as an international banker for 25 years with Chase Manhattan in Latin America and later for the Federal Reserve regulating international banks doing business in the U.S.
Her career led her to love international travel and sparked her passion for Latin American art. She built an impressive collection of Cuban, Mexican, Ecuadorian and other Latin American art, which she lovingly displayed in her home in her beloved South Pasadena, CA.
She said, “art is universal and there’s also a lot of social statement in art.” Among the many snapshots of Carrie’s wild and well-lived life are the stories of when she made the pilot circle back over Nepal so she could get a better glimpse of Mt. Everest, the time she held a cape to a charging bull at a bullfighting ring in Ecuador and her receipt of Brazil’s highest civilian honor for her work establishing a trade association.
She was an active volunteer in South Pasadena city finance and at the Rose Parade. Her philanthropy included a special focus on organizations serving underprivileged girls in developing nations. She loved her cat, Luigi, dearly. She is also remembered fondly by her friends in the classic sports car community; her nephew Paul proudly drives her Alfa Romeo today.
She is survived by her sister, Jean Hobart, and four nephews and their extended families. In lieu of flowers or donations, Carrie’s instructions are that those who knew and loved her should visit an art museum or gallery, eat some dark chocolate and toast to her memory with a glass of good red wine.

COVID-19 Impact: Spotlight on Older Children, Adolescents

Annette Ermshar, CEO, Dr. Ermshar & Associates

First published in the Jan. 21 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

By Annette Ermshar
Special to The Review

As a society, we can certainly acknowledge the serious impacts that COVID-19, quarantine and social distancing has had on all of us.
However, in my psychology practice, I have been particularly concerned with the rise of mental health issues in older children and adolescents. This age range thrives from being with peers, connecting through social outlets and feeling validated by their social interactions.
With the long period of school closures and changes in schedules and social opportunities, adolescents in particular have faced significant challenges, including virtual learning, a significant duration of more limited face-to-face peer interactions, a significant rise in depression, suicidality, drug use and uncertainty about their future.
In terms of development, adolescence is a pivotal period when relationships begin to reorganize. Older children and teenagers desire to have more independence and emotional distance from their parents. They shift their focus to peer interactions, and broadening and deepening their friendships. Their sense of identity becomes strongly associated with their peer group as they develop a greater sense of self and learn who they are, what they like, and what image they want to portray. Teenagers are also exposed to increased social situations and conflicts that they use as learning experiences to develop coping skills and a sense of developing identity.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has negatively impacted this developmental process. There has been less opportunity for in-person interactions, to feel like part of a social group, to feel a sense of belonging and to let emotions out. Consequently, depression among youth, and feelings of loneliness, isolation and hopelessness have all spiked in 2020 and 2021. Adolescents have also reported increases in contemplating suicide, which is associated with escalating internal struggles and appear to coincide with the impact of COVID-19. According to CDC data, there has been a 31% increase in the number of emergency room mental health visits among adolescents ages 12-17 when compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
Unlike other circumstances that require flexibility and adaptation, such as changing schools, moving to another city, or the fallout of a natural disaster, the pandemic is unique in that we cannot disconnect from it since there is no distinct beginning, middle or end. There are ongoing challenges that continue to affect us every day, like ongoing health concerns, cancelled social and sporting events, and uncertainty about ongoing in-person learning. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption in education systems in our history. This affects nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries.
Teenagers across the board have been forced to adapt to new norms in their academic and social milestones. The process of learning from the confines of home has been especially challenging because it increases social isolation, and also increases parental and sibling conflict due to the stressors of spending significantly more time together in a confined space, with fewer outlets.
Our youth are being forced to adapt to significant changes in their world, while also experiencing less opportunity for engagement, excitement or novel situations.
Even among the most supportive and understanding families, adolescents report not feeling understood or accepted because they are feeling so disconnected. Unfortunately, these quarantine-related changes have caused a shift to even more reliance on social media and online outlets, which increases the occurrence of cyber bullying, poor self-image and negative influences from a wider range of peers who may not share their same core values.
In response to these changes, there are a number of symptoms and behaviors that loved ones should be mindful of. When an adolescent is overwhelmed with stress or experiencing depression, they can experience worry or sadness, engage in increased unhealthy eating, sleeping, and/or hygiene habits or withdrawal, or experience difficulties with attention and concentration. Stress and anxiety can also manifest in increased irritability, low frustration tolerance, or more self-destructive and acting-out behaviors, perhaps as a “cry for help” to elicit more support. In the absence of more adaptive coping skills, teens may resort to using substances, self-harm behaviors, or other risky behaviors that represent a change from their previous functioning.
Adolescents who experience notable depression or suicidal thoughts may also have sleep disruptions (either reduced sleep or excess sleep), social isolation, emotional disconnectedness, dissociation, feelings of hopelessness, reduced communication, and reduced interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy.
We certainly know that inadequate sleep impacts teenage mental health. According to the National Institute of Health, although teenagers need an average of nine hours of sleep per night, only 3% of students reported actually getting this amount. Researchers found that among teenagers, each hour of sleep lost was associated with 38% increase in the odds of feeling sad and hopeless, 42% increase in considering suicide, 58% increase in suicide attempts and 23% increase in substance abuse. Research suggests that there is a link between lack of sleep and diminished brain functioning. In turn, this can affect an adolescent’s decision-making, impulsivity and judgment.
Given the rising struggles among youth during COVID-19, it is important to provide a safe space where they can engage in an open dialog and feel heard and supported. Teletherapy has become more accessible to individuals to ensure they have access to therapy and there are various hotlines and texting forums that provide support to youth in crisis, including the national suicide prevention lifeline.
For parents, guardians and family members of older children and teenagers, it could be beneficial to schedule regular meeting times to check in, spend quality time together, and create consistency among loved ones. It is also important to find ways to support scheduled times to see their friends and peers.
Individuals working with or living with adolescents can also help to teach and reinforce healthy lifestyles with good nutrition and physical activities, encourage teens to stay socially connected and provide stability to help them cope with stressors as they navigate this new norm.

Annette Ermshar, CEO of Dr. Ermshar & Associates, is a clinical neuropsychologist who holds a doctorate degree. Her Pasadena-based private practice focuses on psychological assessment and treatment, neuropsychology and forensic psychology. She has served as an expert consultant for television and media.