We know there’s a mental health crisis in our young people. It predates the pandemic, but the COVID-based disruptions to their lives made things worse. This has led many schools to initiate various programs to help kids cope with the stress.
One of the techniques they’ve tried is one that has proved successful in helping adults deal with depression and anxiety: mindfulness training. This involves fully focusing attention on the present, and training the mind to better manage feelings and fears.
But a new study compared 41 schools that didn’t offer the training with 41 other schools that did. At the end of the 10-week course, researchers found no difference between the mental resilience of students who received the training and those who didn’t.
Turns out, many of the students—especially the younger ones—found the practice “boring,” they told researchers.
What Does Help
It’s important to intervene early when kids are having mental health issues. If left to cope on their own, they may turn to drugs and alcohol, or even suicide to numb the pain.
Dr. John Walkup, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and head of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, recently told CNN that parents should be aware of any family history of mental disorders, and how to respond to them.
For example, “If you have a family history of an anxiety disorder, Mom and Dad should make sure they are both in good emotional shape,” he said.
“We also know for families where there’s a strong depression history that getting physically active and being engaged in the world is the best behavioral treatment.”
He also recommended being proactive and sharing the family history with your pediatrician so they can “get on top” of symptoms early on.
Other steps to take
UNICEF Parenting offers four more ways to support teens’ mental health:
1. Encourage them to share their feelings. Remind them that you are there for them no matter what.
2. Take time to support them. Work together on setting up achievable daily goals. Encourage them to take breaks from schoolwork and housework to do things they enjoy.
3. Try to sort out conflict calmly. Never discuss an issue when you are angry, and avoid power struggles.
4. Care for yourself. Try different positive coping strategies that work for you.