Helping our kids through hard times

A new survey shows 7 in 10 teens are struggling with mental health. How can parents and the agricultural community help?

Amanda Radke

January 11, 2021

4 Min Read

Last April, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote a blog post titled, “COVID-19: Our kids are watching our response. What are they learning?”

The message of the blog post was that in difficult times, we must teach our children to be resilient, creative, innovative, determined, adaptive and faithful.

Here’s an excerpt, “I have found that it’s these tough moments in life that are most formative of all. It’s in the ‘hard’ where we find our true selves and what we are really made of.

“These young people are learning from us. How do we respond in a crisis? Are we cool, calm and collected as we gather accurate information and make decisions based on facts and not fear? Do we grow stronger in our leadership roles and find solace in helping others in our communities? Do we speak honestly with our kids, but also help them face their valid fears and concerns?”

You can read the entire blog by clicking here.

I thought of that old blog post today after reading an article titled, “New survey finds 7 in 10 teens are struggling with mental health.”

According to the National 4-H Council, “A new survey commissioned by National 4‑H Council, and conducted by the Harris Poll, finds that 7 in 10 teens are struggling with their mental health in the wake of COVID-19. More than half of those surveyed shared that the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness, with 64% believing it will have a lasting impact on their mental health. The survey, conducted in May 2020, is among the first to examine the impact this unprecedented public health crisis has had on U.S. teens.

Related:4-H kids four times more likely to give back to their communities

In 2019, the World Health Organization announced suicide as the third leading cause of death in teens 15 to 19. Their findings determined that the ‘consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.’”

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 81% of teens say mental health is a significant issue for young people in the U.S.

  • 55% of teens say they’ve experienced anxiety, 45% excessive stress, and 43% depression

  • 71% of those surveyed say schoolwork makes them feel anxious or depressed

  • 65% of those surveyed say uncertainty about the future makes them feel anxious or depressed

  • Teens report feeling more pressured to hide their feelings rather than do drugs

  • 67% feel pressure to keep feelings to themselves

  • 67% pretend to feel better to not worry anyone

  • 65% deal with my feelings on their own

  • Approximately 45% say that they try to ignore their feelings or spend more time alone when they are dealing with mental health issues

  • Teens today report spending 75% of their waking hours (approx. 9 hours each day) on screens during COVID-19

  • 46% of teens reported social media as their most common outlet for learning about coping mechanisms for mental health and 43% follow or support someone on social media who openly talks about their mental health issues

  • 82% of teens are calling on America to talk more openly and honestly about mental health issues in this country

  • 79% of teens surveyed wish there was an inclusive environment or safe space for people in school to talk about mental health. 70% wish their school taught them more about mental health and coping mechanisms

Related:It's not hopeless: Addressing mental health in rural America

Nothing about this past year has been “normal,” and even as adults, it can be difficult to navigate the upheaval, changes, loss of jobs, loss of financial security, loss of opportunities and loss of life that we have seen occur during this season of our lives.

Without a doubt, young people are experiencing these same stressors, and for many, the isolation, tension, stress and more can lead to kids who are really struggling. So how can we help these young people?

Although, we would like to, we can’t control the external stressors that impact our daily lives, we can control our attitudes and where we focus energies. Here are a few pointers from another blog post I wrote titled, “Stress in ag — checking in on my friends,” that apply to all of us in the agricultural community, whether we are young people or seasoned ranchers:

  • See the big picture.

  • List your stressors and identify which ones you can change and which ones you cannot.

  • Shift your focus from worrying to problem solving

  • Think about how to turn your challenges into opportunities.

  • Notice what you have accomplished rather than what you have failed to do.

  • Set realistic goals and expectations daily. Give up trying to be perfect.

What else would you add to this list? My kids are young, and I’ve mostly been able to shield them from the outside world this past year while we have been homeschooling, but for older kids and teens, I would love to hear of any resources or helpful tips that I could share. Please, email me at [email protected] with your suggestions.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

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