Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Youth and Anxiety

Do you know, friends, that until this year I have never seen a therapist? I've never had a specific mental health concern or issue. I've never experience a significant trauma. And so I didn't think I needed one. But recently, for a variety of reasons, I thought I should try this thing that a) has been so helpful to so many people and b) I've always recommended to everyone else. And (surprise, surprise) I have started to realize that mental health, like physical health, is better when professional is helping you see what needs tending and regular check ups are super helpful.

I still don't have any specific diagnoses, but I'm feeling what seems to be the collective cultural sense of anxiety. According to, anxiety in teens actually is rising; it's not just in our imaginations. According that article, one in three adolescents will experience an anxiety disorder. That seem incredible to me, and yet over the past year or so I've become aware of multiple parents whose children or teens are facing mental health issues of varying degrees, anxiety among them.

I bring this up now in part because Delaney Rustin, a primary care physician and the creator of the film Screenagers has a new follow up to that film called Screenagers Next Chapter: Uncovering Skill for Stress Resilience. It looks more closely at young people experiencing anxiety and the intersection with social media and screen use. So many people - teens particularly - turn to screens to escape feelings of anxiety, but avoiding anxiety through social media and screens can exacerbate its symptoms.

The good news is that as young people confront or face a challenge that makes them anxious will decrease their overall level of anxiety. You can read more about the new film here and you can hear Delaney Rustin and her colleague Laura Kastner talk about their approach to anxiety as medical professionals and their suggestions for parents here (scroll to third segment). I am really looking forward to seeing this film. Unfortunately (for me - but maybe great for you) the only showing in Seattle that's open to the public in the coming weeks is next Wednesday and I can't make it.

While I wouldn't say it applies to our congregation, Christian culture more broadly sure is new to the idea that mental health is an important part of our whole selves. If you suspect that you or a young person in your life is experiencing some form of anxiety (some tips on how to figure this out here) or even if you don't, talk about it with someone! Your primary care doc is a great place to start. And many, like Delaney Rustin, may ask questions about mental health in their routine wellness exam. And if you're pretty sure you or your child are experiencing anxiety then seek therapy! Under the ACA insurance has to cover it.

Good medical and therapeutic help is important, but friends, as a believer I am also still rooted in the One who created me. We are all created good and with a spark of God's divine light within. My prayer for all of us - and most especially our children - is that we may become our most full selves, the ones that God knows us to be.
Christians are not the only religious community new to the therapy bandwagon. So I leave you with this. A little comic from one of my IG faves Huda Fahmy. She's also had funny posts recently about Muslim youth ministry. Go follow her @yesimhotinthis on Insta and Twitter.

Photo above by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

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