As many as one in thirteen adolescents experience symptoms of depression and anxiety at some time. The condition can be deceptively difficult for parents to recognize however, and not only because teens often adhere to a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy when it comes to expressing their emotions.
We have learnt a lot about anxiety and depression during the last few decades but in many ways nothing has changed since I was a teenager 40 years ago – disheartened really that we are re-creating the same old, same old – pressurising teenagers to be ‘who we want them to be’, with a constant stream of examinations – where they have to perform on a yearly basis, within narrow and repetitive fields. Add to this an underlying attitude that teenagers are going to be ‘trouble’ and difficult, rather than us reaching into our skill box and learning new and creative ways to be with them.
During the last decade I have been interested by the culture of ‘comatose drinking’ realising that drinking may be this generations way of responding to the pressure we are putting them under. The cycle of our pressurising performing culture creating a default psychology of their need to let go – literally through alcohol by becoming paralytic. We create the pressure and this is the letting off of their steam – cause and effect – simple really…
Do we stop and think “Maybe it’s not them” – maybe it’s us creating an anxious environment. We may be creating a world that is ‘progressive’ but until we learn to be more people centred and respond on a human level to each person, and young person, as an individual we are not using the information we have to provide our young with the best possible start.
Let’s start listening and acknowledging our young people and allow them to express themselves as unique individuals, say who they are, and allow and listen to their feelings. That would be a good start to reducing anxiety and depression, and taking responsibility that we are part of the problem.
This post isn’t meant as a plug for a book but if you have a teenager in your home I have found ‘Changing Bodies Changing Lives’ by Ruth Bell very interesting – it discusses everything that affects teenagers in an open and inclusive manner and supports parents too.
Jane Gotto, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist, works in Taunton with individuals, couples and families, supervises professional counsellors and psychotherapists and co-leads Post Graduate groups at Spectrum Therapy in London. Jane founded The Terrace, Humanistic Psychotherapy and Complementary Health Centre, Staplegrove Road, Taunton in 1994. 01823 338968, www.the-terrace.co.uk www.janegotto.co.uk