In past posts I have written on the increased number of mental health issues in our children and teenagers. Since Lakeside has relationships with 3600 students per year who attend 45 area school districts we have had a tremendous amount of exposure and feedback regarding the epidemic level of anxiety among our regional students. I also believe this is a constant theme throughout our country.
In 2018, Pew Research polled 920 Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 to learn about the concerns faced by Generation Z, defined as those born roughly between 1995 and 2015. The survey found a generation less hedonistic, better behaved and lonelier than previous generations.
A full 70% of respondents called anxiety and depression a “major issue” among their peers. In a Harris poll, 91% of Gen Z respondents reported feeling some physical or emotional symptoms from stress.
And further in research by Child Mind Institute:
…nearly 1 in 3 adolescents will meet criteria by the time they’re 18 for an anxiety disorder, which includes generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or social phobias. And the incidence of anxiety more than doubles from the age of 13 to 18. High school students today have more anxiety symptoms and are twice as likely to see a mental health professional as teens in the 1980s.
In a phase of life where we think our children and teenagers are free from the adult struggles of life we have realized that Gen-Z is a generation that seems to have more anxiety than previous generations. As much as we could rationalize that we are a privileged nation and that our students have many advantages the reality is that our students feel a great deal of chronic stress and many forms of anxiety.
We are very concerned about this in our schools and counseling programs at Lakeside and are working purposefully to build relationships that will give our students someone with which to process these issues. We also have innovative and brain-based techniques to help students who are anxious to be able to regulate their brains and cope with the anxiety and stress they are feeling.
This has become a significant problem in our youth community with serious consequences that can debilitate our kids and keep them from enjoying their life pursuits at a very early age.
This awareness should really impact the environments that we create for students at home, in schools and in our communities. I think our perception of our students may be very different from what they are truly experiencing. We therefore need to be careful to categorize some of their unpredictable behavior when they actually may be attempting to cope with their chronic stress and anxiety.