By: Maddie VanHorn
Today’s teens are more stressed than those growing up in other generations. This increased level of stress contributes to increased mental health issues and other health concerns. A national survey conducted by USA Today found that teens believe high stress levels “negatively affect every aspect of [their] lives.” It is believed that many teens mirror adult stress habits, which could lead to a future filled with chronic stress, as well as chronic illness and potentially shorter lifespans. However, the reasons for the increase in teen stress levels is highly debated. While some blame the distractions of new technologies, or increased demands in school, some question whether the high stress levels reported are accurate at all. “Some experts question whether stress is merely a convenient excuse for teen behaviors”(Jayson). Maybe “stress” is just a response teens have to any task they do not want to complete. Some say that kids growing up in the 21st century do not know what real stress is, so they interpret any type of challenge as a source of high stress. However, the other mental illnesses linked to stress are a clear indication of the changes in teen mental health over the decades. Today’s teens are “more anxious and depressed than they’ve ever been.”
While high stress may increase risks for other health concerns, teens must experience some level of stress to prepare them mentally for the stress of college and their carers. “Some degree of stress is very therapeutic and an appropriate amount of stress is what helps us become strong. The hard part is [finding what level is] appropriate”(Jayson), and providing teens with ways to handle their stress to minimize its damage on their mental health. The American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychology states that it is important for teens to develop assertive training skills, so that they can express how overwhelmed they feel, and get help managing their tasks. Teens should be taught practical coping skills (like breaking down tasks into more manageable parts) and should understand that not everything has to be perfect. In addition, exercise, eating regularly, and avoiding excessive caffeine intake, are important actions to help combat stress.
What do you believe is the main cause for higher stress rates among today’s teens?
Jayson, Sharon. “Teens Feeling Stressed, and Many Not Managing It Well.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 Feb. 2014, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/11/stress-teens-psychological/5266739/.
Depression is a very common, but very misunderstood mood disorder that causes a person to feel mentally drained, hopeless, and incapable of doing everyday activities. It can strike anyone at anytime, even if the person has no apparent reason for being “sad.” Depression knows no age, but people going through major changes in their life are more prone to go through a depressive episode.Teenagers entering high school are at high risk of depression because not only are their bodies drastically changing, so are their friends, surroundings, and views of the world.
The numerous changes happening all at once are often difficult for a teenager to process; he or she begins to feel overwhelmed, panicky, hopeless, and is left struggling to keep up with the ever-changing world around him or her. On top of all of the change and rush of emotion, teens are not properly educated on how to deal with the emotions that come with the changes. Instead of reaching out for help, many teens find themselves turning to drugs/ alcohol, self harm, or even suicide to cope. Suicide “is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds” in the United States, and ninety percent of teens who commit suicide have some type of mood disorder, such as depression (“About Teen Suicide”). Studies show that the number of people experiencing depression is rising quicker than it ever has, but the number of people seeking help has not risen at all.
But why is the number of people with depression rising, but the number seeking help staying stagnant? Ms. Shrewsbury, one of Renaissance High’s counselors believes, “It’s really hard for high schoolers to talk about depression because they feel like they’re the only ones who are experiencing it. They look at other people, and they’re like… why are they so happy and I’m not?… What they don’t know is that lots and lots of people experience anxiety and depression. [Depression is one of] the most treatable mental health issues, but some people don’t get help because they don’t want to talk about it.” It is important that schools encourage education and openness about mental illness. It needs to be known that many of our peers are experiencing the same issues as us; honesty and awareness are the first steps towards a culture where teens can seek help for depression and other mental illnesses.
A word of advice from Mrs. Patton, an English teacher at Renaissance High school: “Don’t stop talking until someone starts listening.” Just because you feel as if you are the only one in the world struggling with depression, does NOT mean you are. You are surrounded by people who know exactly what you are going through because they are or have struggled with the same things.
It’s up to you to start the conversation. Acknowledge your struggles and reach out for help. And most importantly, remember you are never ever alone!
Suicide hotline number: 1-800-273-8255
“About Teen Suicide.” Edited by D’Arcy Lyness, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Aug. 2015, kidshealth.org/en/parents/suicide.html.