One of the trending issues among our teenagers is an increase in mental health problems. As we deal with teenagers all throughout our Lakeside educational and clinical programs we too find that there has been an increase in the severity of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. We also have noted that the issues that we are encountering feel far more complex and pervasive than we have seen in past years.
It seems we have a high tech, very progressive and relatively comfortable environment for our current youth. However, it appears that the anxiety and depression feels very oppressive causing a lot of other issues which are debilitating to our students. It is very perplexing to figure out why this reality is so glaringly apparent.
In the link below and as published in USA Today, Pew research suggests that 70% of teenagers say their peers struggle with depression. It is more prevalent than drug and alcohol issues or bullying. Some of the indicators leading to this effect is increased pressure to achieve good grades and go to college. However, some of the researchers have suggested that the prevalence of mental health issues is more about the acceptance of speaking about it openly whereas in previous generations it was unacceptable to express your emotions or mental state.
One other issue that is a neurological reality is that there is so much going on in the development of the teenage brain. Some of the instability is a direct result of the rapid change, growth and rewiring of the brain that is prevalent in teenagers. Some research has indicated that the teenage brain can be in rapid transition to the point that some of the resulting behaviors mimic mental illness.
It is indeed a complex set of circumstances to understand our teenage culture. It feels overwhelming at times for parents, school staff and caregivers. What is important is that we as caregivers need to understand that there are some significant transitions facing our teenagers and that they need intense support. That includes options and interventions that will help them regulate their developing brains. If there is trauma or adversity in their lives then the regulation can become even more difficult to achieve. If they cannot regulate they will not relate or think well enough to learn, understand and grow. This can be quite a struggle and intensely frustrating which can lead to a depressive life. It is significant for us to understand that we can help by giving them support and strategies to cope and navigate this very difficult phase of life.
Here is a link to the USA article citing the Pew Research: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/21/depression-anxiety-seen-major-problem-among-teens-pew-survey-says/2940998002/
For all of us who deal with teenagers it is important that we have clarity on what may be going on for them which can appear like unpredictable or even rebellious behavior. Healthy relationships, active listening, good communication, clarity and understanding can help us help them work through the issues that seem depressing to them. We at Lakeside work through these issues on a daily basis and realize that as difficult as the task seems, teenagers have the resilience and capability to get through this phase of life with the right support from those close to them. That reality and experience gives us all hope and a level of confidence that our efforts will be effective and life-giving.