Anxiety and depression rates for children, youth and teens are on the rise. A recent Pew survey reported that 70% of teens said anxiety and depression are “major problems” among their peers. In the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 28% of New Hampshire kids said that they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in the past year. Below are some tips for parents and caregivers.
What are signs and symptoms we may see in a teen with anxiety or depression?
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Feeling worthless or guilty without cause
- Lack of energy
- Lack of interests in activities they’ve had in the past
- Loss of interest in friends
- Trouble sleeping; oversleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Headaches, stomachaches or other pains that don’t go away with treatment
- Excessive worry
- Agitations and frustration that can lead to anger
- Avoidance of stressful situations
- Sleep problems
- Panic attacks
- Restlessness or difficulty concentrating
- Aches and pains similar to depression
We all get these feelings every now and then. But if these are persistent, it could suggest anxiety or depression, which are often related, especially among children. Anxiety is likely to emerge earlier and can be a sign of potential depression that may follow. Since depression is the major cause of suicide among children, dealing with early anxiety is very important.
What should we say to someone experiencing these symptoms?
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Getting enough sleep, eating well and exercise can all help prevent and manage anxiety and depression. Also encourage activities that can foster relaxation, like going for a walk or yoga.
- Be an emotional support for them. Sometimes youth may not be ready to talk about what they are experiencing, but just spending quality time with them can help. When youth are ready to talk, listen to them and especially pay attention to their feelings.
- Connect them to other positive social situations and groups. For example, the 4-H program offers a variety of program opportunities for youth.
If someone needs extra assistance, where can they find help?
Suicide rates are unfortunately disproportionately high in New Hampshire. If youth are experiencing increased levels of anxiety or depression, it is important to ask them if they are having suicidal thoughts, and seek immediate help if they say yes. If you or someone you care about are in an immediate crisis, call 911. There is also a text line; text “HOME’ to 741741 for a crisis counselor. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for self, family or friends in need. You can also dial 211 and get connected with a community resource specialist to find services in your area.
Watch the WMUR Positive Parenting Segment on this topic: https://www.wmur.com/article/positive-parenting-recognizing-signs-of-anxiety/30211310#
Find more National and New Hampshire mental health resources here: https://extension.unh.edu/mentalhealth
Check out this resource list from the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) NH for more resources during a crisis or anytime: https://www.naminh.org/resources-2/covid-19/