Adolescence is one of the most turbulent time of our lives. The bodies, minds, and environment of adolescence are going through massive changes. While going through these massive changes we as caretakers of the next generation should be providing them with ample opportunity to succeed.
The Journal of Adolescence states that “Proper sleep patterns, eating habit, and physical exercise routines play key roles in overall health and well-being, these habits root in adolescences, and can be difficult to change later on down the road” (2011). While the World Health Organization defines mental health as “A state of well-being in which an individual realizes his/her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his/her community . The core to living a healthy lifestyle starts with the basics: getting good sleep, exercising, eating properly, and learning how to listening to our bodies. As shepherds of the next generation it’s vital that we take an active role in our adolescence’s mental and emotional well-being.
As the role of parent changes from generation to generation, as well as from society to society, it can be hard to come to an agreement on what ‘good’ parenting is. Most can agree that it consists of: listening, trust and respect, providing 2 support, protection, and affection. Providing a stable environment where teenagers feel safe sharing their problems is paramount to taking an active interest in their mental and emotional health. “Positive relationships that form during adolescence are conducive to children developing skills to be able to control themselves, regulate emotions and behaviors, learn resilience, optimistic, empathetic, and enhance their self-esteem and self-efficacy” . These positive relationships with parents not only aid adolescence in becoming successful adults, but they can also act as a protective buffer during difficult times of chronic stress, exposure to bullying, anxiety, and depression . Teachers also play an active role in students’ self-esteem and motivation by being a positive role model and educator. As much as teenagers want to be independent, we should remember the importance of adequate guidance plays in their overall success. We must understand the risk factors as well as the cause and effects of chronic stress and anxiety will help us in raising a happy, healthy, well rounded future generation, ignoring these issues will add to the already growing mental health care crisis our society is facing today.
Analyzing the Issue
We all can remember a time during this period where we were sure the sky was falling. Many doctors, experts, and scientist alike have described the adolescent period we experience in different terms, but the experts can agree that it’s the period dubbed the ‘storm and stress’ period of our lives (Hills G.H.1904). It can be hard to distinguish what is going on or how to treat our growing young adults because of all the rapid changes that are taking place. During this time adolescents are going through bodily changes, sexual awakening, psychological changes, personality and identity development, peer influences, mood swings, intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts, on top of dealing with stress for one of the first times in their life. It’s a 3 tricky gauntlet of horrors and we must equip our children with the best knowledge and experience we have to navigate this treacherous stage of life. Breaking down the complex pieces at play can give us a clearer understanding of the problems need attention and addressing, and what issues are just another chapter in ‘the teenager drama saga’ starring every adolescent.
Minnesota Student Survey 2019 has some alarm data that deserves our attention. In the Minnesota Student Survey over 25 percent of students were reporting some type of mental, behavioral, or emotional issues (see figure 1). These data points should be jarring enough for us to address the glaring issue presented to us. We must properly address these issues now because it could save lives in the future. “Since chronic stress has been associated with poor sleep quality, sleep deprivation, and sleep disturbances, it is essential to take sleep and sleep disturbances into account 4 as factors when studying adolescent stress” . Sleep issues can be address at home, but can be observed in the academic setting. “Academic stress is one of the major stressors among adolescents and it has been associated with poor mental health” .
Our job as educators is to teach our students how to navigate and pursue a successful career in a field, they are passionate about. We impose due dates to reflect workplace deadlines, as well as test the knowledge of students, not to stress them out to the point of detrimental consequences. “If an imbalance between spending and regaining energy persist over a period of time, serve stress symptoms may occur in the form of emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, and cognitive difficulties” . “Academic stress does not only have a negative impact on mental and physical health, but also on the quality of life in general” . Having a strong support system can act as a buffer against stress, both at home and at school. Adolescents who struggle with stress and anxiety will inevitably go on to struggle in their adult life. If we never equip them with the proper cope skills, we are just setting them up to fail. “Children who are in good state of emotional well-being have higher odds of growing into adults who are happy, confident, and enjoy healthy lifestyles, consequently contributing towards a better society and improving the overall well-being”. Mental and emotional hygiene plays a critical role in overall physical health. “Emotional ill-being (mental/emotional issues) during childhood/adolescence can increase the likelihood of emotional ill-being in adulthood that can have lasting adverse consequences” . Overall emotionally well-adjusted adolescence positively benefits the advancement of our society. Stress is inevitable but how we teach our teens to cope with it will either set them up for success or failure. Taking a little extra time to 5 analyze and understand the emotional and mental health of our adolescents can improve the overall success of our community.
Identifying the Risk Factors
Understanding what goes into the emotional well-being of our adolescences is vital, but also identifying and understanding the risk factors is curial to the success of our future generation. This paper will shed light of some very important risk factors, but make a not that it does not cover all the risk factors.
The Risk Factors that will be cover are:
1. Fixed Risk Factors
2. Enivronmental / Social Risk Factors
3. Chronic & Academic Stress
5. Gender Differences
These Risk Factors will be analyzed through the lens of the sources that references in the work cited potion of this paper. The risk factor will be interconnected but will all have a specific paragraph dedicated to analyze and understand the issues further. Risk Factors are common where serious mental health issues are not. Taking action against risk factors can help decrease other serious issues from arising.
Fixed Risk Factors
Fixed risk factors are can help determine if someone is at heighten risk for chronic stress and anxiety. These factors are not determined by the individual and can’t be changed. In the American Academy of Pediatrics, outlined fixed risk factors are outlined as the following: “family history of suicide attempts, history of adoption, parental mental health problems; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning; a history of physical or sexual abuse” . These risk factors can be indictors of much serious issues that need to be addressed, but them might not always be detectable. Other fixed risk factors to consider would be a poverty, family financial constraints, family history of drug use, abuse or maltreatment . These are risk factors that need to be addressed in a safe space in the home.
Social / Environmental Risk Factors
Social and Environmental risk factors are key factors in assess adolescences mental and emotional health. Teenagers spend the majority of their time among peers in an academic environment. It’s important that this environment be safe, inclusive, and geared towards their overall success. Social and Environmental range from: Bully, Impaired child-parent relationship, Social isolation, Presence of stressful life event, Legal or Romantic difficulties’ . These issues are all complex and need to be analyzed to understand their roles in overall well-being of our adolescences. Bullying: Googles definition of a bully is someone trying to seek harm, intimidate, or coerce an individual into doing something . While the America Academy of Pediatrics elborates even further and adds three elements that go into bullying, they are as follows; “Aggressive/ deliberately harmful behavior, that is repeated and occurs over time, and involves imbalance 7 of power” . Most often times bullying begins in or around the school setting.
Bullying has been classified into four categories by the America Academy of Pediatrics;
1. Direct –Physical (fights, destruction of property, physical contact)
2. Direct –Verbal (arguments, name calling, teasing)
3. Indirect- Relational (social exclusion, spreading of humors, intentionally damaging one’s social status)
4. Cyberbullying Bullying
often bullying takes root somewhere in the academic setting, but can spread to harassment outside of school setting. Parents having open and honest daily conversations with their teens about relationships regarding school can help in catching the signs of adolescent bullying. Why should teachers or administers of the education systm care? Because bullying has been linked to lower academic performance, lower attachment to school and success, on top of causing unneeded distress upon the adolescences . This can lead a many emotional and behavior issues ranging from lower self-esteem and self-worth, to much more concern issues like substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation. Addressing bullying as a serious issue will help our future generation to growing into emotional developed, happy, healthy adults.
Male V. Female
There has always been an obvious difference when it comes to the genders. Men and women are biologically and emotionally hardwired differently, it should come as no surprise that they react differently to stress and anxiety. Over the past twenty years the percentage of adolescence 8 reporting issues dealing with stress has been steadily rising, and females seem to be more sensitive to these life stressors . The Minnesota Student Survey is an eerie representation of the gender differences plaguing the mental health issues in our adolescences. Female’s on average reported twice as many emotional and behavioral problems . Young adolescent girls are struggling with dealing with academic stress and anxiety, and their mental hygiene is lacking because of it. In 2015, PISA data found that 64 percent of girls felt uncontrollable anxiety during and before test time, while 47 percent of males show problems controlling their anxiety . This could be an indicator that females are more sensitive when it comes their performances. According to the Journal of Adolescence, “female lower gobal self-esteem stems to the parents’ tendency to place greater expectation on their female offspring” . We must take a more comprehensive approach to raising our daughters of tomorrow, and analyze the social pressure we, as a society, maybe putting on a specific gender.
OTHER RELATED ISSUES
It’s no secret that chronic stress and anxiety, if not handled properly can lead to much worse issues. The general consensus is adolescence aren’t emotionally mature enough to handle these mental and emotional obstacles without some guidance on the matter first. Certain indicators point to academic stress as being fuel to the fire. “High levels of academic stress regarding academic performance and higher education were more like to have serious thoughts of suicide than those students who did no experience academic stress” . Academic stress is no doubt one of the largest contributing factors to the overall stressors in our adolescence’s lives. As educators we must evaluate each individual student not as number or grade in a book, but as a young adult 9 really just struggling to figure life, all while trying to figure out time management, on top transitioning through emotional and sexual maturity. We can all remember the tricky times that came with adolescences, and we should lead with a little more compassion. We should reevaluate our roles in the students’ lives, and be the givers of knowledge, a source of help, and the gatekeepers to their overall success. Rather than being judges to their success and failures, be helping hand in the process.
“Academic stress is positively linked to adolescent depression, and adolescent depression is positively linked to suicidal ideation, then the effects of academic stress on adolescent’s suicidal ideation may be mediated by its effects on adolescent depression” . It should be pretty easy to understand by now that consistent academic stress and failure can be linked to depression, and even suicidal ideation in adolescences. We should take notice that Minnesota is no expectation to the rule with our adolescences. Minnesota Student Survey 2019 figure two shows some alarming numbers. Students seem to be struggling in school are signaling for help, and if we don’t answer their call the consequences could be depressing. This in turn could cause our adolescences to 10 struggle with sleep, concentration, attention span, agitation, irritation, and a lack of drive or motivation. Adolescences often times don’t want our help and demand independence and autonomy. We can all think back to the horrible time of teen years’, and the struggles that always seem to follow each other, one right after another. Finding the right way to reach our children and teach them how to cope stress is the best stop a whole army of other issues from even intruding. When we examine all these issues separately it may seem easy to draw lines, and point fingers at one problem as being the ‘it’ problem, but in reality, one problem doesn’t go into causing a complex issue like ill mental health in adolescences. Juon H, “Found depression to be the strongest and most consistent predictor of suicidal behavior” . Table 1 seen below is a list pulled from the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report on Suicide and Suicide Attempts giving an overview what depressive symptoms in youth:
Suicide among adolescence is the second leading cause of death . These are alarming statistics, and what even more alarming, suicide rates could be lowered by just paying attention 11 to issues with chronic stress and anxiety. Rebecca found ‘that students who reported feeling a high level of stress regrading academic performance and higher education were more likely to have serious thoughts of suicide’ . Dealing with Chronic stress and anxiety is vital to decreasing mental and emotional issues in our adolescences.
Adolescence is one of the most turbulent time of our lives. Teachers and parents can play active roles in helping their teenagers succeed at becoming mental and emotionally healthy adults. Being able to identify chronic stress apart the normal ‘storm and stress’ of adolescences can be difficult, but it’s a curial part of the process. Understanding the risk factors while examining the cause and effect of chronic stress can we gain a fuller understanding of the picture. By aiding our adolescences in dealing with academic stress and anxiety we can help them become productive, fruitful contributors to our society. Our teens’ may not want our help in dealing with their mental health but they need our help.
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