Perkiomen School: Exploring the Mental Health Crisis in Teenagers

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Images via Perkiomen School.
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Anxiety in teenagers is a concern in a world where COVID-19 is still dominant. A raging pandemic led nearly everyone to experience levels of worry, but that of high school-aged students is a serious concern.

Academic pressure has always impacted the lives of teenagers. High school students often feel overworked or unable to comprehend certain subjects. Anxiety levels have noticeably increased in students over the past two decades.

In a National Education Association (NEA) study completed in 2018, it was shown that nearly two-thirds of teenage students expressed that being overwhelmed by anxiety was a serious issue in their school.

This was only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While adjusting to a school setting in a global pandemic, students have had to accept policies, restrictions, and regulations while attempting to maintain their studies.

Author Zoe Kelly ’25, Perkiomen School

Some high-achieving students even feel anxiety overpressure to succeed, sometimes influenced by their parents. One potential cause of anxiety in this age demographic is the use of social media.

Although it is not responsible for the anxiety in all students, it may be responsible for some. Often on social media, teenagers feel pressured to look, act, or be a certain way.

Repeated use of social media can strongly influence feelings of anxiety. All in all, anxiety is a concern that affects an overwhelming number of students.

While anxiety is the more predominant concern of high school-aged students, there is still a multitude of other mental health issues affecting the generation.

Number two on the list of growing mental health problems in adolescents is depression. Feelings of depression and overall hopelessness is an issue in teenagers.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that one in every three high school students experiences these feelings, which was a 40% increase from a similar report in 2009. Suicidal ideation can stem from these mental health concerns. The CDC also reported that one for every six students considered suicide in the year 2019, a staggering 44% increase from a report 10 years prior.

While many teenagers report growing mental health issues, many do not. Dr. Claire McCarthy stated in an article on HealthyChildren.org that of the 7.1% of students under the age of 18 who have received an anxiety diagnosis, only 18% receive the help they need to combat these issues.

She later added that only 3.2% of minors are diagnosed with depression, but over 30% have felt depressive feelings in their lives. Certain demographics are more affected by depression than others. Nearly half of all LGBTQ+ minors have experienced depression and/or seriously considered suicide.

We may never know the full levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns in teenagers, but what we do know is how we can help our peers. Being aware of symptoms of anxiety and depression in our social groups can be beneficial.

Avoiding social activities and school, persistent occurrences of irritability, and reoccurring worries are just some of the more noticeable symptoms of anxiety and depression. Recognizing these traits and discussing them with the one who is experiencing them can be of assistance. Restricting your own social media use can even help to prevent a stronger feeling of anxiety or depression from setting in.

Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, are issues in high school students. Knowing why mental health is declining, and how we can help ease these issues amid a pandemic can be a starting point in maintaining overall wellbeing in teenagers.

“As community leaders and in our daily interactions with students, it is so important for educators to model mental health strategies and help demystify mental health issues,” says Perkiomen’s Head of School Mark A. Devey.

“I encourage all schools to talk publicly about these issues and give a voice to students, the way our student newspaper has. Although writing is just one example, through these types of processes, we can foster environments that destigmatize mental illness and fully support students who are experiencing behavioral, emotional, or social challenges. We are listening and learning what supports students need, let’s not wait to put them into practice,” he notes.

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