When it comes to stress and its impacts on youth, we have a tendency to say things all the time like, "Children are resilient. They can handle the stress or abuse or the societal chaos and upheaval."
But this is just not always true.
Young people and teenagers are not always "better for the wear"!
Nor do they handle stress very well. The statistics of stress-related and harmful behaviors are alarming for this generation. They prove that children and teens are not as resilient as we think.
For example, if teens were so resilient to society's chaos, then they wouldn’t be showing increased signs of isolation, depression, suicide, anger, homelessness, and identity issues.
Looking at the facts, teenagers have been affected socially, relationally, physically, and spiritually by stress, and issue-related stress is very real.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported the following results of stress in teenagers:
So — what can we learn about stress as a YTH leader? How can we help this Gen deal with stress, depression, and ultimately suicide?
Four Teen Stress Facts:
1.) Stress Has Increased Among Teenagers
Just two years ago the teenage population in mental health facilities was 19%. Today, the teenage population in such facilities is over 40%.
We must do something about the increase of adolescents in mental health facilities.
You would have thought that spending so much time at home the last year, during the pandemic, would have decreased stress.
But our homes are not healthy and our students were placed into stressful situations.
They were removed from their friends, teams, classmates, jobs, and interactions.
Just what did we think was going to happen?
All of this created a vacuum of relationships, which help teens process everything in life. That loss of relationship brought stress they could not escape from for a year of their life.
2.) Our Society Mirrors Our Children
Our children are our nation's foundation.
Healthy homes build healthy children who create healthy societies.
Think about stress this way. We wouldn’t need counselors if children were resilient. If children were resilient they wouldn’t be broken, depressed, and suicidal.
Broken children results in broken adults. Unless there is a dramatic turn in a life.
In the words of Frederick Douglass, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
We are not just raising a fatherless generation anymore. We are raising a fatherless, motherless, and siblingless generation. That most certainly affects the well-being of teenagers.
Look at the health of teenagers today and you will see the health of society tomorrow.
Here is another fact related to teenagers and stress.
3.) A Teen’s Behavior Is a Response to a Need
It might be easy to simply say that teenagers are emotional or teenagers are unstable. But everyone has real needs. Maybe a teenager is stressed or depressed because they actually have needs.
It could be the need for love, acceptance, relationships; it could also be the need to be valued and heard. Or, it could be the need for safety.
Chronic and acute stress are growing issues in teenagers.
Chronic stress is cyclical ongoing stress, and, acute stress is a single event trauma.
Let’s look quickly at some of the triggers or markers of stress:
- Negative formative life event
- Food poverty
- Abuse - mental, physical, or witnessed
- Traumatic events
- Toxic or harmful relationships
- Identity crisis
- ACE (adverse childhood experiences)
Learning to identify these triggers can be a critical stopgap that YTH leaders can use to bring prevention and care to teenagers in crisis conflict.
4.) Early Intervention Is Critical
The earlier we intervene the better chance we have of helping someone.
The later we intervene the less chance we have of helping someone.
We have to train YTH Leaders to look for the early signs of stress so they do not develop into the later signs of depression and suicide or other harmful at-risk behavior. We can stop at-risk behavior with early trait recognition and intervention.
4.) Actions Which Can Be Taken
So what do I do if I see signs?
— Identify the problem/signs: Heart disease, Violence, Risky behavior, Weight gain/loss, Mood swings, Loss of milestones or purpose, Poor grades, Isolation, Random schedule changes, and Social disengagement are all signs that must be identified and addressed immediately.
— Communicate to the teen about the problem. Talking directly to teenagers will always help and bring hope and processing to the situation.
— Help solve the problem. Sometimes it only takes one solution to change the outlook of a teenager!
— Celebrate the smallest of wins. Tell a teenager that maybe the fact that we are even talking about this is the first step of healing the problem.
Identify these red flags and take immediate action. Teenagers who deal with stress need conversation. Often times such conversations could be the easiest way to curb the types of curb stress leading to depression and suicide.
The easiest way to help our students is for our own personal health. Make sure that you are considering your personal total wellness.
Rest, diet, exercise, counselors, and even medication if needed.
Healthy YTH leaders build healthy students who create healthy societies. Our health as YTH leaders is critical to reaching students living in a stressful world.
"When hurting adults try and heal teenagers we are doing more harm than good."
— Kesha Simmons, Behavioral Counselor.
After four decades of Youth Leadership, Jeff Grenell founded ythology to inspire, educate and resource youth leaders to prepare the NextGen to lead in the Church and the world. Some of the services yhthology offers include, events, leadership development, resources, anti sex-trafficking and humanitarian efforts. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffgrenell Read Jeff Grenell's Reports — More Here.
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