In recognition of the challenges a new school year presents for children and adolescents, Mental Health America (MHA) is providing new resources on student mental health (http://www.mhanational.org/back-school), with an emphasis on web-based tools that can be easily shared across social media platforms. This year, MHA has developed tools and resources to help increase understanding of stress and loneliness in children and teens and is providing materials on the topic for parents, school personnel, and young people.
MHA surveyed 11-17 year olds who came to its Online Screening Program (www.MHAScreening.org) about what was stressing them out. Forty-eight percent of 11-17 year olds surveyed felt that they were “very” stressed out. Here’s are the top 5 things that caused them stress:
- Getting good grades (76%)
- Preparing for the future (76%)
- Loneliness (68%)
- Body Appearance (62%)
- Juggling Priorities (61%)
Stress is more common in children and teens than many realize, and can impact academics, sports and family life. While most kids and teens aren’t dealing with bills, difficult bosses, and frustrating commutes, there are plenty of situations that can cause them stress. When a teen’s stress starts impacting their sleep, when they seem to be getting physically sick more often, when they seem sad and withdrawn – it could be more than typical teen angst. While it’s also normal to feel lonely sometimes, when young people are lonely a lot, it can affect them many ways. Research shows that loneliness can translate to poor sleep, high blood pressure, greater risk of suicidal ideation, and even alcohol and drug use.
If a young person continues to feel overwhelmed, unable to cope and feel as though their stress or loneliness is affecting how they function every day, they may be experiencing the first signs of a mental health condition, like depression or anxiety.
"Half of all mental health disorders begin by the age of 14. About 75 percent begin by the age of 24. It’s important for parents, caregivers, and school personnel to know the signs that a young person is struggling with his or her mental health and be willing to help,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. “While we can’t completely shield young people from all that life throws at them, we can help them learn to manage their emotions and reactions in ways that cultivate resilience.”
This year’s Back to School toolkit includes:
- Fact sheets on stress and loneliness for parents and children/teens;
- Sample social media post language, cover images, profile images, and shareable images;
- Drop-In article for school newsletters;
- Key messages;
- Posters for use in schools and other places where children and teens spend time; and
- Sample radio PSA scripts.
Taking a mental health screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Free, confidential, and anonymous screening tools are available at MHAScreening.org for parents and youth to find out if a young person may have symptoms of a behavioral, emotional or cognitive disorder. MHA’s website also has additional material on children’s mental health available here.
Mental Health America (MHA) - founded in 1909 - is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. Our work is driven by our commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need it; with recovery as the goal. MHA’s 2019 Back to School campaign is supported by contributions from Janssen: Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc.