Over the years, I have met with and counseled more teens than I can remember on depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. The weight of those counseling sessions was always heavier for me than others. Most sessions left me with my head in my hands trying to figure out how we got in this place. How did we get here?
I will never forget the night. It was the night before we tore down a back wall of our student facility for renovation needs. That night we were talking about a phrase called, Stockholm Syndrom. At the end of the service, we encouraged students to write on the wall the things that were holding them captive. The things that they kept running to but wanted to be set free from. Little did I know, the weight of the words that would be written.
I remember sitting there with my head in my hands wondering how we got here. It seemed that every third note was about suicide, anxiety, depression or despair. The troublesome fact was, most parents had little to no idea. From my experience, most teens don’t tell their parents about their feelings or thoughts as it pertains to this topic until they are much older or it’s too late.
Teen anxiety has been on the rise since 2012. 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 reports 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 (times magazine). These stats are more than likely on the low end as most teens don’t express their need for help. A 2015 report from the Child Mind Institute found that only about 20% of young people with a diagnosable anxiety disorder get treatment.
The reality is that our kids are growing up in a world that is very different than the world that we grew up in. They will never know a time where terrorist attacks, church shoots, school shootings are not the unfortunate norm. They are growing up in a digital world where they are constantly comparing themselves to everyone around the world in the blink of an eye. Not to mention the unrealistic pressures and standards that are placed on our kids by the educational system. To be successful you must do x, y and z.
So what’s the solution? What can we do as a generation to give hope to the next generation? I don’t have the complete answer yet, but I believe it begins with teaching our children when they are young about the sovereignty of God. Showing them that there is a God that loves them beyond their wildest imagination (John 3:16) and that He can be trusted no matter what happens in life
Isn’t it strange that our kids have no trouble believing that a fat man in a red suit can slide down a small chimney and give all kids in the world gifts in one night? What would happen if we invested the same amount of energy, from childhood into showing them why they can trust God with the circumstances of their life. When their life is the easiest begin teaching them about the sovereignty and provision of our the heavenly Father.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:31-32).
Over the next several wks, I will be posting several times about ways to fight anxiety, worry, fear with trusting God. Let me know if this is something that you struggle with and if there is a particular area that you would like for me to speak to.