Helping Teens Cope With Stress

Participants at ABUW Em-Power 5K (run or walk) for teen mental health
Participants at ABUW Em-Power 5K (run or walk) for teen mental health

Stone with participants in a run/walk in Massachusetts for teen mental health

The United States Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) reports that suicide is the third leading cause for teen deaths. The rate of teens taking their own lives has increased tremendously in the past few years. Many adults and children are growing increasingly aware of the effects of toxic stress on young people.

On October 1, I got a chance to interview teens at a walk/run fundraiser sponsored by the Acton-Boxborough United Way, a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts. The money raised at the event will go towards fighting teen stress.

It was pouring rain at 9 o'clock in the morning, but hundreds of runners still showed up to participate for the race. “When we asked town residents what they thought the biggest issues were, one of the top things that they were worried about was teen stress,” said Jennifer Stone, President of Acton-Boxborough United Way. "So [we] took it as an initiative to raise funds to create a structure to address it.”

When asked what causes so many teens to feel overwhelmed and despairing, stress, Liam Hanlon, a student at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, said, “There are a lot of tests and homework at school, which builds up to immense pressure. We need to get into a good college [in order to succeed], and it just causes a lot of stress.”

Yet many people acknowledge that understanding and treating the underlying causes of teen stress and depression can be difficult. “A lot of people can't tell when someone has depression, is stressed out, or faces other issues," said John Stewart, also a student at Acton-Boxborough. “People can’t really tell if you’re undergoing stress or how to help. It’s also hard for victims to tell other people [about their struggles].”



When asked how young people can help alleviate the problem, student Caroline Caruso advised: “If you notice someone is sad, you can just go up to them and be nice.” Saar Deschepper, a student at Acton’s RJ Grey Junior High, said: “You can help by volunteering to fight teen stress and by not bullying other people.”

Health experts say that they will increase efforts to alleviate teen stress. How can you help?

Photo courtesy of the author