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As a high school student, I am positive that I am not the only student that has experienced major anxiety due to the stresses of school, work, extracurricular, and college applications. Although I believe that I can control my levels of anxiety, I know that many students, especially due to the current circumstances, are suffering greatly. Although mental health is a topic that is increasingly becoming normalized, students continue to suffer with anxiety and depression at alarming rates. According to an article titled “The Epidemic of Anxiety among Today’s Students,” over “70% of teens say anxiety and depression is a major problem among their peers.” Why, in a country with the most developed technology and medicine, are depression and anxiety rates among teens and college students at the highest it has ever been? Perhaps there is a problem in the education system, a system that pressures students to do well at whatever expense. In 2016, “nearly two-thirds of college students reported overwhelming anxiety.” This statement reveals that the schools and educators must be placing too much pressure on students to achieve, or it is the students themselves who self-sabotage by setting standards for themselves that are unrealistic and completely unattainable. However, there must be another factor that is leading to these high levels of anxiety and depression, as it is not abnormal for students to feel pressured to do well in school, to a certain extent.

Yes, there is indeed another factor that has increased anxiety and depression among students, a factor that has recently taken hold of teens, and its effects are close to terrifying. According to Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University, “all the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives; the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.” Teens now hold social media at their fingertips, they are in control of what they see, post, and hear. At an age when their brains are still developing, it is unhealthy for teens to constantly check social media, which contributes to stress and increases procrastination. Furthermore, “teens who spend 5+ hours a day on social media are 71% more likely to have at least one suicide risk factor than a student who spends 1 hour a day on social media.” This is not a statistic to take lightly; it reveals that social media is directly endangering teen’s lives, as it accounts for the reason suicide rates have recently increased. 

So what can students do?  It is not as easy to just say, “put your phone away.” Teens who have developed an addiction to social media will only be able to break this habit if they realize the downfalls of social media and realize the harm it is doing to their mental health. Putting time limits on certain apps and placing their device on the other side of the room while studying are ways to regain control of their urges to constantly check social media. Doing this will surely improve their stress levels, as procrastination will be decreased. However, it should not be completely up to the student to figure out ways to decrease their anxiety and depression. Schools, parents, and counselors also ought to continually remind their students that grades are not everything; mental health takes precedence over academics. Bad grades are one thing, but dangerous states of mental health are another; life-threatening if not treated correctly. Teens ought to be encouraged to see therapists, rather than treated as outsiders or as though they have “problems” that calls for professional help. Additionally, The National Alliance on Mental Health advises paying attention to exercise, sleep, and diet, as these factors can help a student feel better or worse, which can either increase or decrease their mental health state.  Normalizing mental health days should be encouraged, spending time with family, and partaking in activities that offer inner peace, such as painting, reading, mediations, or anything spiritual in nature. Yes, students must study and work hard, but not at the expense of their mental health and anxiety. How are teens expected to be the future leaders of tomorrow if they are already experiencing burnout today? 

Flannery, Mary Ellen. “The Epidemic of Anxiety Among Today’s Students.” NEA, www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/epidemic-anxiety-among-todays-students. 

Writers, Staff. “Promoting Student Mental Health: Resources & Support.” AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org, AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org, 17 Apr. 2019, www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/student-mental-health-resources/. 

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4 Comments
  1. Bridget 4 months ago

    Great post, Josie! This topic definitely merits our attention and I agree 100% with the possible solutions/remedies for which you advocate. Attention to overall health should be our focus!

  2. Thano Prokos 4 months ago

    Very important piece Josie. Your commentary on the smartphone particularly raises tough questions because even though a sizable voice of experts has expressed concern about the way technology has re-wired our brains — Nicholas Carr is one of them; you may remember reading one of his pieces in our sophomore class– this doesn’t seem like a genie that’s going back in the bottle.

    For instance, I recognize the distraction and anxiety that my phone and computer give me, but I’m not giving them up. They’re too convenient, and at this point, they seem integral to the way I live my life. What to do, then? how do you come up with a creative solution for a problem that demands radical change, that simultaneously makes that level of necessary change seem impossible?

    Lots of food for thought, and I didn’t even get to my point on this sentence:
    “Why, in a country with the most developed technology and medicine, are depression and anxiety rates among teens and college students at the highest it has ever been?”

    I won’t say anything else about this point other than linking you to this NPR article about Farreed Zakaria’s book “Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World.” I wonder what parallels you see– might be another opportunity for a follow-up.

    https://www.npr.org/2020/10/13/923218525/this-is-an-opportunity-fareed-zakaria-on-lessons-for-a-post-pandemic-world

  3. Alvaro 4 months ago

    I completely agree with your post. I’ve also come to understand that mental health issues are extremely common among teens and college students. It is an epidemic that needs to be treated as soon as possible. Although these issues can be attributed to many different things in a person’s life, I firmly believe that school has an enormous part to play in it. Students, especially high school and college students, need constant brain stimulation in order to keep focus. I believe that is the problem. With the introduction of phones and social media, students have lost the ability to focus for long periods of time. Although I believe the school system is flawed, I also think students should work on themselves in order to achieve a higher level of discipline.

  4. Cynthia 4 months ago

    I enjoyed reading your writing, “The Widespread Problem Among Teens Today” because I agree that so many students have anxiety and stress due to school and outside of school such as social media. As a high school student applying to colleges and waiting to get accepted or not gets you really anxious and nervous. One sentence that stood out to me was “Schools, parents, and counselors also ought to continually remind their students that grades are not everything; mental health takes precedence over academics.” I think this is important because students are told all the time that grades are very important and grades can reflect the type of person you are. We are expected to be the perfect students and that we should never fail. Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because of the interesting topic that you chose to write about.

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Youth Voices is an open publishing platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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