Editorial: Anxiety education

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Most kids breathe a sigh of relief when their school’s doors close for the summer.

For some it means the chance to work more hours and save up some money, and for others it’s lazy days of beach time and sleeping in.

As adults we envy those carefree months of sunshine. We tend to think that kids have it easy and they’ll be in for a rude awakening whenever they’re forced to participate in the real world of bills and deadlines. What is not acknowledged or fully understood is how much anxiety and stress many youth actually undergo at school.

The 2013 British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey identified mental health and substance use as particular areas of concern for the Gulf Islands district, based on student surveys. Results showed a much higher rate of binge drinking among Gulf Islands youth compared to their provincial peers, and more self-identification of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.

A survey created by local youth that polled 150 fellow Gulf Islands Secondary School students in 2016 also found that teens experience high anxiety and stress in their daily lives. School was listed as the main cause and place where anxiety occurred, although social situations and the home were also high on the list.

Teens are becoming familiar with the language around mental health issues, and local school programs are doing much to break down the stigmas that might prevent youth from seeking the help they need. A daylong, school-wide mental health forum hosted by the GISS leadership program in February 2017 was a fantastic step in bringing much needed information into the open.

There is still work to be done, however. One of the findings of the survey conducted by Mindful Teenagers Affecting Change is that while many youth practise forms of self-care, others don’t feel they have a safe space to share their concerns and don’t know who to talk to when they need help. A suggestion from the young women who created the survey is that mental health education needs to start much earlier in schools, and that parents and teachers could be trained to become more effective resources.

As we ease into summer let’s not forget the stress and anxiety that children feel during school time is real.

We can help by building our own awareness.

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