April 25, 2023
Teenage angst: It’s real, and everyone who has entered adulthood can surely remember experiencing it. But when is teenage angst actually something more? Psychologist Alicia H. Clark says, “Teenage angst is generally understood to encompass the range of normal insecurity and stress related to the profound biological changes teens undergo.” And while every young person nearing the cusp of adulthood has to battle a range of emotions as their hormones change and their bodies develop, sometimes the behaviors and emotions that pre-teens and teens display go deeper than mere teen angst.
Research indicates that at least 20 percent of teenagers suffer from depression, and of those only 30 percent receive treatment for it. Further, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for children ages 10-14 in the U.S., suicide is the second leading cause of death, and for individuals ages 15-24, it is the third leading cause of death. The statistics are even more concerning when looking at LGBTQIA+ students and teen girls. According to a 2023 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 52 percent of LGBTQIA+ students experience poor mental health, and 22 percent attempt suicide each year. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. teen girls suffer from feelings of hopelessness and persistent sadness—“double that of boys.”
However, the CDC supports the idea that schools can play a significant role in positively impacting students’ mental health. During the 2023 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference, we hosted several free professional development webinars, now available on demand, to aid educators and school staff in supporting students’ mental health.
On Our Minds: Podcasting to Help Teens Talk About Mental Health
When you are struggling with mental health, it can be easy to feel alone. In this session from PBS NewsHour Classroom, the presenters discuss their On Our Minds podcast. The podcast shares stories from students who talk about their own mental health challenges. This process can be therapeutic for the students who are sharing their stories while also allowing other teen listeners to feel a connection with peers who are going through similar experiences. The webinar also explores ways schools can create their own audio storytelling programs to provide a platform for students to share and connect with others about their mental health challenges.
Countering Pushout: Skills to Support Black Girls
Creating a positive school and classroom environment where students feel safe and understood can go a long way in positively impacting student mental health. Kids’ behavior often stems from emotional challenges they are facing. When an environment and process is created in which students displaying negative behavior are approached from a place of caring, student mental health challenges can be identified, underlying causes for the behavior can be addressed, and students can receive the support they need.
Understanding Youth Violence: Approaches for Best Supporting Students
In this session from WE Schools/WE Teachers, you will learn how to recognize the signs of students experiencing violence as well as the causes of violence and the negative impact it can have on students’ mental well-being and interactions with others.
Part of being able to support your students as they struggle with mental health challenges is making sure that you—as an educator, guardian, parent or caregiver of children—are also taking care of your own mental health. Watch the two sessions below for guidance on supporting your own well-being so you also have the emotional capacity to care for others.
I Matter—You Matter, Flex Your Adult SEL Muscles and Everyone Wins!
In this session from All It Takes’ Lori Woodley, you will learn how the five adult social and emotional learning muscles “will support every exhausted, challenged, and committed person in the education ecosystem.” Check out the video below to learn more about the session.
Self-Care and Communal Care for Ourselves and Our Students
Delve into this session from the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility to learn strategies to tend to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. You will learn that self-care is more than bubble baths and rest days, but also includes things like boundary setting and asking for what you need. After addressing self-care, you will also discover how you can play a role in strengthening communal care—creating a space of belonging, collaboration and more.
For more resources on supporting students’ mental health, explore these two collections:
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Megan Ortmeyer is an SML Team Member and has worked in the AFT Educational Issues Department since fall 2018. She received her M.A. in education policy studies in May 2020 from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University.