mental health

Mental health crisis is hitting teens hard – Marin Independent Journal

Mental health crisis is hitting teens hard – Marin Independent Journal
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An alarming number of adolescents are experiencing significant emotional distress.

Statistics recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that 42% of American high school students experienced lingering feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021, while 22% seriously considered attempting suicide. It was during the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the emotional health crisis for adolescents began before the coronavirus.

There has been a continued increase in suicides among teens aged 15-19 over the past decade, a 29% jump. This has implications for mental health support systems and also has major implications for parents and teachers.

With these statistics in mind, I recently read a New York Times Q&A (“Teenagers Are Struggling Right Now. What Can Parents Do?” Feb. 28) sharing the psychologist’s perspective for teens Lisa Damour and her new book, Teenage Life.

The article and the book helped me better understand the problem and the different ways parents can help. I highly recommend all parents of teenage and/or tween children read both. In the meantime, I want to share some insights that I have drawn from these sources and from my own experience with teenagers.

Damour begins by dispelling three myths about teenage emotions:

Myth #1 – Emotion is the enemy of reason. Wrong, we have to see them as common aspects of a teenager. Myth #2 – Difficult emotions are bad for teens. No, they are normal for teenagers. Myth #3 – With their heightened emotions, teenagers are psychologically fragile. It is simply not true.

The thrust of Damour’s book is about parental empathy and clarity. She emphasizes that parents need to respect teens’ emotions and see them as normal and not threatening. We need to help adolescents express their feelings and better manage their emotions.

One chapter aims to help them look at the things they struggle with from a different perspective, to be able to help them think about their issues with more awareness and less emotion.

Importantly, she also notes, “Too often, ‘mental health’ is equated with feeling good, happy, calm, or relaxed. … It’s misguided, … “it’s about having feelings that fit the moment – ​​even if those feelings are unwanted or painful – and dealing with them effectively.”

If, for example, a couple separates, it is to be expected that they will be very sad. It’s normal. What is important is how the adolescent then processes his feelings.

“What we want to see is that they use strategies that relieve and do no harm, such as talking to people who care about them, finding brief distractions, or solving the problem,” Damour wrote.

She also points out that we need to be careful about managing our emotions as parents. To be a great parent, or teacher, you need to have a strong ego, in the best sense of the word.

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