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Professional Development

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Why Are Youth Stressed Out? How We Can Help.

Mental health struggles are increasing among our teens. There are a lot of reasons for this. Higher rates of mood, attention and behavior disorders start many youth off behind the eight ball.

The mental health statistics for youth and teens are shocking:

  • 20 percent of youth ages 13 – 18 live with a mental illness.
  • 11 percent of youth have a mood disorder.
  • 10 percent of youth have a behavior or conduct disorder.
  • 8 percent of youth have an anxiety disorder.

Even more scary:

  • Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in youth ages 10 – 24.
  • 90 percent of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.

Youth are stressed out more than ever. But is it a mental health issue or just feeling the pressure of day to day life? How do you know?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your teen's academic performance affected?
  • Are they withdrawn?
  • Are there physical signs of stress showing?
  • Are they sleeping?
  • Have they been acting out?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, please start by talking to your child. And then get the support you need from other adults in your life and professionals.

Did you know that increased use of technology has been proven to make teens more isolated, which exacerbates or even triggers the symptoms? Every year, students are required to show more achievement before college as "proof of concept" for youth to get into the schools and programs that we've convinced them are their only ticket to success or happiness.

What can we do? Watch this video:

To sum it up, there are three important ways we can protect students and help them decrease stress:

  • Ask how they're doing. Many teens don't tell the adults in their lives about their struggles, thinking we wouldn't care, wouldn't know how to help or would just reject the possibility that they're suffering. It's up to us to open that door again and again and again, by noticing their cues, asking good questions, and listening to the answers.

  • Keep identifying resources. The more help we find for students and the more strategies we discover and pass on, the more our kids know that we are looking out for them and don't expect them to be OK all the time. And we're better prepared to help them or give them the information they need to seek help when they need it.

  • Focus on your student's effort and problem-solving, not results and accomplishments. Students can control how hard they try, but they often have no control over how well they do. Praising perseverance, resourcefulness, and attitude helps our kids decrease their stress over performance and evaluation, as they see that we're not judging how things turn out—we're interested in the effort they put in.

Written by Parenting and Youth Development Expert, Deborah Gilboa, MD, aka "Dr. G."

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Ask Dr. G.