Teen Depression and Anxiety: It’s Time to Talk about It

Teen depression and anxiety have a voice via the November 2016 issue of Time Magazine. Is this epidemic impacting your teenager? It seems to be impacting their generation on a profound level.

It is crucial to have awareness of the increase in teen depression, anxiety and self-harm. Unfortunately, there is not enough time or education given on self-harm, depression and anxiety. Also, most people that your teen interacts with on a daily basis are just as confused about what to do.

The statistics cited in the Time article are eye-opening. Many cultural and environmental changes have impacted this generation. It seems that these changes leave a devastating gap between the need for help and encouragement to seek help. 

What is most concerning about this issue is how easily it is overlooked. Well-meaning, loving parents are in the dark about it. Also, teens feel that a high amount of stress is normal. 

– What is the cause?

Why is this increase in teen depression and anxiety happening? Are today’s teens self-absorbed, bored or weak?

Today’s adolescents are not more fragile than those of the past, and it is actually quite the opposite. In fact, today’s adolescents can handle pressures from school, society, family and themselves to a great degree.

Teens eventually crash under the weight of these expectations. They suffer from being “strong” for too long.

Is social media to blame? 

Connection to the internet provides access to positive social connections and useful knowledge. However, teens struggle to form healthy coping tools and unhealthy ones are the norm.

For example, teens pick up their phone to avoid a feeling. The Time article explores ways that constant connection via smart phones may contribute to teen depression and overwhelm.

It’s apparent that the amount of triggers for negative thinking have increased. Also, the apparent lack of meaningful connections with others has increased. These increases correlates with competitive schooling, constant connection on social media, as well as a generation of stress-out parents.

What about academic pressures?

Opportunities for education do bring opportunities for achievement. 

However, many educational systems do not serve a student’s emotional or social needs. There are large schools, comparison between students, and a “typical” learning style. These norms have a negative impact on a student’s ability to cope with stress or failure.

Students are under pressure to perform academically. Some educational environments do not teach a student how to handle failures well. Unfortunately, this is especially damaging for an anxious teen or a teen with low self-esteem. 

We must go beyond simply looking for who or what to blame.

We must bravely seek health and wellness for our young people. Furthermore, this must be the top priority, not a luxury second to their academic achievements. 

– What can be done?

If this is the state of the teenage world, what is the solution? Is it to avoid the internet or to stop going to school?

It is not necessary or possible to avoid social or academic pressures.

Instead, consider that the relationship your teen has to their academics and social world must be intentional. Also, the relationship that your teen has with their social media platforms must be intentional.

Most adolescents do not have the words to constructively express the depth of their fear, worry, pain or frustration. On average, they feel their emotions more intensely than adults.

Also, teens are are often under more pressure from school, family and friends than adults! Teenagers can benefit immensely from counseling or therapy because they learn to address their emotions in a healthy way.

– A Parent’s Role

There are helpful ways for you to approach these concerns as a parent. Help your teen decided what they want to “subscribe” to. These questions relate to anything from a social media app to a  grade that they want in class.

Help them ask themselves questions like these.

“Why is this important to me?”

“How do I want to approach this and what role do I want it to have in my life?”

Also, seek support that empowers you to understand how to navigate teen depression and anxiety. Hopefully you will be among families that approach these issues with an attitude of willingness to seek help.

Luckily, there is a growing response, offering tools for teenagers that meet the demand of their apparent distress.

For example, more schools incorporate mindfulness tools and emotional intelligence into their curriculum. Also, more parents are finding help for their teenagers sooner. Most importantly, more teenagers are speaking up, seeing that they are not alone.

Your teen’s voice matters and it must be heard. The awareness is growing and the help is there if you seek it.

– Where do I start?

First, here are additional steps that you can take now to help prevent teen depression and anxiety for your teen. With these tools you can enhance their developing mind and world view in a positive way.

1. Don’t shame your teen

Responding to your teen with anger or judgement is dangerous. Also, it will shut down your ability to understand them. In addition, when a teen’s self-harming or emotional behavior is punished, it puts them at risk.

Many parents accuse their teens of faking or amplifying their feelings. A teen’s behavior is rarely, if ever, manipulative. Instead, they are trying to express the pain that they feel, which they themselves do not fully understand.

Practice responding to your teen in a constructive, patient way. Also, start by acknowledging and accept your teen’s emotion.

2. Don’t shame yourself

Unfortunately, many parents blame themselves. This makes it difficult to understand a teen’s feelings and can prevent a parent from seeking help.

Learn what teen depression looks like and how to notice signs (i.e. irritability or trouble sleeping). Also, learn how to spot subtle signs of anxiety (i.e. overachieving or changes in social behavior).

Essentially, learn about what to look for and how to seek help sooner. To start, the Time article provides information about what self-harm is and why teens do it.

3. Seek help now

There is quality mental health care and caring therapists who specialize in teen issues. Don’t wait; your teen relies on you to seek help for them. Anxiety and depressive disorders are preventable and treatable conditions.

Many people shy away from recommending or seeking quality counseling because of a stigma. Hopefully this will soon be a perspective of the past because negative patterns can form quickly for teens. 

Finally, seeking therapy for a teenager is not condemning them as sick or broken; in fact, help allows them to grow without the cloud of depression or the suffocation of anxiety.

Resources:

Identify and prevent teen depression with this free e-book: 

http://www.kristinetherapyla.com/is-your-teen-depressed

Read Time magazine’s article: 

http://time.com/4547322/american-teens-anxious-depressed-overwhelmed/ 

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