Anxieties of the Post-9/11 Generation

TIME magazine has published a must-read article by Susanna Schrobsdorff on the epidemic of depression and anxiety affecting young Americans. Every parent should be aware of the mental health challenges being faced by millions of our kids.

As Schrobsdorff writes, “They are the post-9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps most important, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.”

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The TIME article provides insights into real-life adolescent struggles:

The first time Faith-Ann Bishop cut herself, she was in eighth grade. It was 2 in the morning, and as her parents slept, she sat on the edge of the tub at her home outside Bangor, Maine, with a metal clip from a pen in her hand. Then she sliced into the soft skin near her ribs. There was blood–and a sense of deep relief. “It makes the world very quiet for a few seconds,” says Faith-Ann. “For a while I didn’t want to stop, because it was my only coping mechanism. I hadn’t learned any other way.”

The pain of the superficial wound was a momentary escape from the anxiety she was fighting constantly, about grades, about her future, about relationships, about everything. Many days she felt ill before school. Sometimes she’d throw up, other times she’d stay home. “It was like asking me to climb Mount Everest in high heels,” she says.

The statistics provide another kind of illustration:

In 2015, about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2 million report experiencing depression that impairs their daily function. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys–totaling 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Experts suspect that these statistics are on the low end of what’s really happening, since many people do not seek help for anxiety and depression. A 2015 report from the Child Mind Institute found that only about 20% of young people with a diagnosable anxiety disorder get treatment. It’s also hard to quantify behaviors related to depression and anxiety, like nonsuicidal self-harm, because they are deliberately secretive.

Read the entire article online here or download a pdf here.

“We’ve Tried to Teach Them Hope”

A message of hope from the departing 44th president this week… it’s worth watching the six-minute video of Barack Obama speaking about raising his girls…

QUESTION: And I have a personal question for you, because I know how much you like those.The first lady put the stakes of the 2016 election in very personal terms, in a speech that resonated across the country. And she really spoke the concerns of a lot women, LGBT, people of color, many others. And — so I wonder now, how you and the first lady on talking to your daughters about the meaning of this election and how you interpret it for yourself and for them?

OBAMA: You know, every parent brags on their daughters or their sons. You know, if your mom and dad don’t brag on you, you know you got problems. But man, my daughters are something. And — and they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up. And, so these days when we talk, we talk as parent to child, but also we learn from them. And, I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted. They were disappointed.

They paid attention to what their mom said during the campaign and believed it because it’s consistent with what we have tried to teach them in our household and what I’ve tried to model as a father with their mom and what we’ve asked them to expect from future boyfriends or spouses. But what we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience and we’ve tried to teach them hope and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.

And so, you get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off and you get back to work. And that tended to be their attitude. I think neither of them intend to pursue a future of politics and in that, too, I think their mother’s influence shows. But, both of them have grown up in an environment where I think they could not help, but be patriotic to love this country deeply, to see that it’s flawed, but see that they have responsibilities to fix it. And that they need to be active citizens. And they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future co-workers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury. And I expect that’s what they’re going to do. They do not — they don’t mope.

And — and what I really am proud of them, but what makes me proudest about them, is that they also don’t get cynical about it. They — they have not assumed because their side didn’t win or because some of the values that they care about don’t seem as if they were vindicated that automatically America has somehow rejected them or rejected their values. I don’t think they feel that way.

I think they have in part through osmosis, in part through dinner time conversations appreciated the fact that this is a big complicated country and democracy is messy, it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want. It doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes. But if you — if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country and there’s a core decency to this country and — that they got to be a part of lifting that up. And I expect they will be.

And in that sense, they are representative of this generation that makes me really optimistic. I’ve been asked — I had — I’ve had some off-the-cuff (ph) conversations with some journalists where they said, “OK, you seem like you’re OK, but really, what are you really thinking?” And I’ve said, “No, what I’m saying really is what I think.” I — I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world, but I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time. That’s what this presidency has tried to be about. And I see that in the young people I’ve worked with. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

And so, this is not just a matter of no drama Obama, this is — this is what I really believe. It is true that behind closed doors, I curse more than I do publicly… and sometimes I get mad and frustrated like everybody else does, but at my core, I think we’re going to be OK. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it and not take it for granted.