Teens Stressing Stress
In the Boston Globe today Hui Feng, age 17, writes, “I can attest to just how stressful teenage years can be. For an average high schooler who is pushed to excel in school, pressured to fit in and compelled to be ‘cool,’ everyday stresses can compound into serious aftermath.”
Hui Feng goes on to say that many kids fall into depression. They avoid asking for help because of stigma associated with depression and other mental health disorders.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of kids who tell me the same thing. It’s the kids who don’t ask for who deal with stress by acting it out, medicating it, or holding it in.
Girls teased 15-year-old Wendy. She couldn’t talk with her mother about it. Her mother suffered from untreated bi-polar disorder. “It made me put my feelings in a box and not open up to nobody,” Wendy says. “I just didn't say anything for a long time. I was silent.” And she ended up depressed.
The middle-school years turned ugly for Oronde when he transferred to a new school. His classmates rejected him. “I felt alone,” he says. “I felt like I had nobody to turn to. My mind was messed up. I started traveling to drinking, using other drugs just to forget about everything.”
Wilson’s best friend was murdered. There seemed to be nothing he could do, no one he could talk to. He took his grief out on anyone in his path. “I was always going around looking for trouble, vandalizing stuff, breaking windows,” he says, “never really respecting anybody, spitting on the floor right in front of them.”
Hui Feng wants us to know that many kids struggle like this. And he wants us to do something about he. Hui Feng and 22 other young people in Massachusetts believe that prevention is the key. They’ve formed Teens Leading the Way, a group that’s raising awareness about mental health. The group is proposing mental health drop-in centers across the state - safe places where young people can share “their fears and demands of an awkward age,” as Hui Feng says. Hoping to get other kids involved, the group has a page on MySpace.
Ideally, these conversations would happen at home. Parents would be available to their kids. They would listen without judging and offer support and guidance.
But we know that some parents are not available to their kids, physically or emotionally. They either can’t or won’t take time to be there when their kids need them most.
A recent study found that kids as young as age 11 feel high levels of stress. Clearly, kids are feeling a need. I commend Hui Feng and the other students behind Teens Leading the Way for taking steps to fill the gap. Their actions may help many kids who are yearning to connect with someone who cares – someone who listens and can guide them along the way.
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