In our opinion: Teen anxiety is rampant. Solving it will require help from everyone
Deseret News - 3/7/2019
New research from the Pew Research Center further cements the reality of the impact depression and anxiety have on today’s teens. Concerns about mental health seem to be the one thing that all teens have in common, with 7 in 10 reporting depression and anxiety as a “major problem” among their peers.
Mental health concerns stand out from worries about post-high school plans, teen pregnancy and drugs. Roughly the same amount of teens from various demographics share the same concern over mental health.
This is not a problem isolated to one area or group — mental health issues have a legitimate hold on teens.
The Deseret News spent a year reporting on why teens are more anxious than ever, as well as what families and communities can do to help. Reporting included findings about why anxiety is on the rise, the difference between boys and girls, the stressors that affect them most and where solutions can be found.
Mounting pressure from college and career plans, technology and dating are few factors among many that contribute to the rising rates of anxiety and depression. The unprecedented rise in mental health issues among youths can be frightening and overwhelming, but there are ways to fight it.
Deseret News reporting found that the biggest help for overcoming teen anxiety could be found in three places: At home, in schools and through community resources. That means everyone is responsible in helping reduce the grip anxiety and depression have on the rising generation.
A teen struggling with anxiety or depression needs support from the family and the community. A strong structure of attending school and having counselors there to help adjust scheduling, workload and even find school programs to help is beneficial to teens as well. Community resources, such as churches, therapists and doctors, are all important factors in effectively combating this issue.
To see an entire generation dealing with this issue in an unprecedented way is not something to treat lightly. Anxiety can result in loss of motivation, lack of sleep and panic attacks and can otherwise prove completely debilitating. Serious mental illness, unaddressed, can lead to severe individual harm or suicide. The problems facing these people are real and painful, not imagined or overblown.
To ensure youths get the appropriate help they need, communities must first stamp out any residual stigma surrounding mental health issues. Simply listening with empathy to the pains of one affected can cultivate a hopeful environment and help others understand the real effects of mental illnesses.
Second, schools should reassess the roll of counselors. School counselors often perform clerical tasks on behalf of the student body, but their unique training could be better used supporting youths affected by mental illness. A bill before the Utah Legislature would direct the State Board of Education to adopt new rules for counselors and prohibit them from doing certain menial duties. That’s a good start, and it deserves the governor’s signature.
And while state efforts are necessary, everyone has a responsibility to reach out in love, compassion and understanding, treating youths not as a cohort of whiners but as a group of dedicated young people who have bright futures.
CREDIT: Deseret News editorial board, Deseret News