Anxiety and Depression

Written by Lisa Bleich

anxietyAnxiety and depression are rampant among teens and college students and sadly an increasing number of students are taking their own lives. Each time we hear of another tragic suicide, my friends and colleagues shake our heads at the deep sadness and despair that these young people must have felt. And all of us who are parents of teens or college aged students sigh with relief that our kids are safe but wonder could we be missing something in our own kids.

No one is immune to having mental illness touch them or their family in some way. Recent news stories have delved into how much mental health is impacting our youth and how there is still a stigma associated with discussing it openly. Yet is it only through open discussion and removing the stigma that people can begin to seek help and realize that their problems are temporary and do not need a permanent solution.

Through education, awareness, and connection suicides can hopefully be reduced. Below are two poignant and important stories about recent suicide clusters and how parents can understand the signs of depression.

The first is “On Point” with Tom Ashcroft, which discusses academic achievement and mental health issues. 

His guests are:

Madeline Levine, psychologist. Co-founder of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education’s Challenge Success Program. Author of “The Price of Privilege” and “Teach Your Children Well.”

Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University. Author of “Age of Opportunity.” (@ldsteinberg)

The first forty minutes of the segment present an excellent dialogue about the key issues that have contributed to teen suicide and some ways it can be prevented. Dr. Levine eloquently discusses the conundrum of a community like Palo Alto where there was a recent cluster of teen suicides. She identifies that parents blame the teachers and the school, and the school blames the parents and everyone blames the colleges. I saw this same finger pointing when I worked on the Balance Committee at my daughters’ high school. She further identifies that the bifurcation in our society with regard to wealth has made it even more stressful for parents because they don’t want their kids to be left behind.

However even with the societal pressures from all sides, the preponderance of suicide comes from mental health issues and until we address and discuss openly about mental health issues, we will not solve the problem. Parents can help by connecting with their kids and really listening to what they are saying.

Disconnecting and being present provides the space for kids to feel safe. This mirrors my previous blog post about Rosalind Wiseman’s talk at the spring IECA conference.

The next piece is a moving interview by Katie Couric with two moms whose sons committed suicide. She tries to help families understand some of the signs because both moms knew something seemed off about their sons immediately beforehand, but given their history of popularity and success, had no idea just how bad it was.

If you are struggling with a family member with mental health issues, don’t struggle alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers tons of support for families.

Comments
  • Marcia Kramer
    Reply

    Lisa,
    This is an unbelievably important topic and is one that is often not discussed. We spend loads of time talking about the state of college admission and not the state of our students once they are there—the incredible pressure to succeed, the feelings that they can’t do it all (who can) and the unreachable goals our society has set for these young people—contribute to this terrible state. You do a great service to bring this material to light. All of us, professional and parents, should consider the impact of teen and young adult suicide on families and our society. As a society it is our obligation to provide alternatives for our children so they can feel it’s not always about matching up and being someone (whoever that is).

    Marcia Kramer

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