Helping You Cope

As a veteran secondary school teacher, I felt an obligation to read the story from start to finish. I am glad I did because what I read amazed me...

When the November 7 issue of TIME arrived in my mailbox, I was expecting the cover story to have something to do with the election, but to my surprise, it dealt with teenage depression and anxiety.  As a veteran secondary school teacher, I felt an obligation to read the story from start to finish.  I am glad I did because what I read amazed me – facts like 25% of teens ages 13-18 report suffering from anxiety disorder.  The article revealed that approximately 13% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up almost 5% since 2006.  Girls are far more likely to experience depression than boys, but boys are more likely to be anxious than girls.

Obviously, these are anxious times for all of us, but to grow up in such times I can only image the stress involved.  As saturated as our culture is with social media, there is no place for an adolescent to hide from scrutiny.  A Cornell University research scientist commented that “if you want to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it.”

The article also examined the lives of teens who had suffered from such intense anxiety and depression that many of them had either committed self-harm or had considered such an act.  And what many of these individuals claimed was a powerful deterrent from such psychological spiraling was to channel feelings into something creative.

A month earlier, I had read a lengthy article in THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS (October 7, 2016, pages 1E-4E) which concluded that teens can be taught coping skills to “skirt the pitfalls of anxiety and depression.”  Students had to be taught and convinced that personalities can change for the better.  They read anecdotes written by high school seniors about high school conflicts, reflecting how they were eventually able to “shrug things off and move on.”  In a study conducted by a Harvard psychology professor, students were asked to write encouraging advice to younger students.  Such intervention lowered the prevalence of depression among those younger students who read the anecdotes and advice as much as 40%.

With the quality of individuals that we have at TST, one might conclude that our students do not have the same anxiety levels as stated among teenagers in both the TIME and DALLAS MORNING NEWS articles.  But our students are teenagers, subject to the same levels of stress and anxiety as any other group; in some case, because so many of our students are so driven, perhaps the stress and anxiety levels among our students are higher than some groups.

Creating HELPING YOU COPE, became more than a writing assignment. The intent was to provide an outlet for juniors and seniors to define anonymously the levels of stress and anxiety they have experienced and to examine the sources of this stress and anxiety by relating setbacks, obstacles, and even personal bouts with depression and, perhaps more importantly, in retrospect, to relate how they dealt with such setbacks and define what is truly important in their lives.  Each junior and senior was allotted one page to identify their setbacks and obstacles they encountered and then compose advice to teens at TST younger than they in the hope that younger teens reading the booklet will be more emotionally prepared to deal with the obstacles and challenges of their final two years at TST.  If you are interested in reading HELPING YOU COPE, a copy is on display in the TST Main Office.

Written by Trinity School of Texas' Upper School English Teacher, Edward Allen

NOTE FROM HEADMASTER GARY WHITWELL:
No student is immune from these issues.  While our students are often confident and self-assured, they feel the pressure of grades and college entrance exams and applications.  They also deal with the mixed blessings of rapidly changing technology and social media.  Even younger students may, at times, suffer from depression and anxiety.  Please join us for an important seminar on Thursday, February 9, at 6:00 p.m.  Dr. Paula Bradley will be in the Commons to speak on teen depression and anxiety.  She will take questions from the audience, as well. 

For more information on teen anxiety and depression:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv9SwZWVkOs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXeRpshNG1s

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