Anxiety Comes Pre-Installed

October 11, 2017

Take a moment and picture yourself as a 16 year-old.

  • What did you look like? What clothes were you wearing?
  • Who were your friends or those you hung out with?
  • What did you do after school? What were your extracurricular activities?
  • How did you communicate with your friends?
  • Were you ever bullied or picked on by others. Or did you know someone who was?
  • What sorts of things stressed you out or worried you?
  • How involved in the church were you?

Now, take a moment and picture a specific teenager you know today. It can be your own child, family member, neighbor or member of our congregation.

  • What do they look like? What sorts of clothes do they wear?
  • Who are their friends or who do they hang out with?
  • What do they do after school? What are their extracurricular activities?
  • How do they keep in touch or communicate with their friends?
  • Have they ever been picked on or bullied? How and why were they bullied?
  • What sorts of things stress them out or worry them?
  • Are they involved in the church?

As you thought about your life as a teenager and a specific teenager today, I can imagine you pictured a few differences. When we talked about this in staff meeting last week, communication was one of the greatest differences. Another was how much more today’s youth have to deal with on a day to day basis than we did years ago.

I recently came across a number of articles in Time magazine about today’s youth dealing with anxiety and depression. This is what I learned:

  • Adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile, less resilient and more overwhelmed than their parents were when they were growing up. They have been called spoiled or coddled or helicoptered.
  • They are a 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.
  • They hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.
  • Major depression among teens in the U.S., especially girls, has jumped 37% in the last decade.
  • In 2015, more than three million adolescents ages 12-17 reported at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year. An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. 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.
  • Being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social-media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism—you name it. Every fight or slight is documented online for hours or days after the incident. It’s exhausting.
  • Youth say: “We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all.” “We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones [social media sites], from our relationships, from the way things are today. I don’t have pressure from my parents. I’m the one putting pressure on myself.”
  • Teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screens on their phones. There is no firm line between their real and online worlds.
  • School pressures also play a role, particularly with stress. College applications, grades and not feeling qualified is a constant stress on our youth.

What is our role as the church?

Studies show that teenagers need at least three adults (other than parents) in their lives. How can we be those adults for our teenagers? What can we do to help?

Christian Formation and Health Ministries here at First Presbyterian, under the umbrella of Congregational Care, have teamed up to provide an ongoing series, Wonderfully and Fearfully Made. Each session will focus on a different age and topic faced by our youth, children or parents today.

Anxiety Comes Pre-Installed is our first session on Sunday, October 15, for high school Youth and parents. Dinner and the program for high school Youth and parents begin at 6 p.m. in Wood Fellowship Hall. It will be led by psychologist Jennifer Hawthorne. Stay tuned to hear about the other sessions coming in December for high school seniors, in January for high school senior parents, in the spring time for middle school youth and parents, and in April for rising sixth grade youth and parents.

Keep our youth and families in your thoughts and prayers.  Help our teenagers know that church is a safe place they can come to.

-Natalie Raygor, Director of Youth Ministries