OUR DIGITAL WORLD’S IMPACT ON OUR YOUTH’S MENTAL WELL BEING
It’s tough out there. We live in turbulent times and it’s evident by the fact that anxiety and depression among teens is at an all-time high. In fact, since 2011, there’s been a 59% increase in teens reporting depressive symptoms. Somewhere along the way, anxiety became the new normal. Why?
Filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston used a personal lens and professional eye to help us understand how and why our teens are dealing with higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression in the new documentary film Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience.
Understand and Empower…
In the film, we follow Delaney as she finds herself at a loss when she tries to help her own teens through their struggle with their emotional wellbeing. Ruston set out to understand the challenges in our screen-filled society, and how we as parents and schools can empower teens to overcome mental health struggles; build emotional agility; increase communication savvy; and develop stress resilience.
The task isn’t easy, but she demonstrates what can be done in our schools and homes to help our youth build the critical skills needed to navigate stress, anxiety, and depression.
Digital interface isn’t going away and while Ruston points out that there are some positive factors in our digital world – she also points to the necessity of filtering out and counteracting the negative factors.
Outside of Delaney’s personal experience, the film follows other families from different backgrounds with a spectrum of emotional challenges. We observe schools using various methods to provide strategies relevant beyond the classroom setting. Interwoven through these stories is cutting edge science and insights from research and thought leaders that uncover evidence-based ways to support mental wellness in our youth.
“There is also an epidemic of sleep deprivation. Scientific data shows that more than two hours a day on social media correlates with a higher chance of having unhappy feelings, and teens say their main way of coping with stress is to turn to a screen. They need to learn other coping skills.”
By examining the lives of real teenagers and hearing from experts in a variety of fields, the film ultimately delivers a positive message by offering practical solutions.
“Give teens opportunities to overcome emotional challenges — help them get comfortable feeling uncomfortable,” Ruston said. “Validate more, problem-solve less.”
The film demonstrates how parents, especially mothers, tend to want to jump in and help kids navigate problems. It makes parents feel better, but it makes kids feel worse.
A major takeaway was how many parents assume their kids are talking to friends about their depression. They’re not. Some of them are sharing via social media, only to discover it’s not the best place to share these types of feelings. Ruston’s daughter, Tessa, confirms this notion by sharing her own negative experience with sharing her personal feelings on social media.
Bottom line, teens need us to listen to them. And they need us to validate them.
Ruston explains why validating kid’s feelings without jumping in to fix their issues is important. Take time to listen to your teen and hear them out without judging them. This approach works especially well with kids who are fighting depression and anxiety.
For specific ideas on how to practice validation and empowerment while helping your kids build skills for stress resilience, read this parent guide from SCREENAGERS NEXT CHAPTER.
THE FACTS ACCORDING TO Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER
Since 2011, there has been a 59% increase in teens reporting depressive symptoms
Scientific data shows that 2+ hours a day on social media correlates with a higher chance of having unhappy feelings
Teens say their main way of coping with stress is to turn to a screen—this is concerning for many reasons and we need to ensure they have other coping skills
Some schools are implementing innovative programs, such as wellness clubs, where teens teach their peers essential communication skills, like conflict resolution and relationship building
State-of-the-art therapies, including mindfulness, exposure therapy, and behavior activation, are being used to successfully treat anxiety and depression and yet many teens and adults don’t know that these proven interventions exist
When teens suppress emotions, research shows it negatively impacts their school work and other cognitive tasks
Just like toddlers’ brains are primed to learn languages, teenage brains are primed for learning skills to navigate complicated emotions
Here’s a list of resources if you need help:
Bainbridge Youth Services
Bainbridge Island Psychotherapy Guild
Bainbridge Island School District Resource Page
City of Bainbridge Island (Mental Health Resource Page)
If you didn’t catch the film on October 23rd,
you can purchase tickets for the encore screening on November 7th here