Scary Places

The seeming brushfire of anxiety and depression amongst teens

More and more I learn of and am saddened by stories of teens suffering from severe anxiety and depression. Anecdotally, I can say that much of this is ignited not from tragic deaths in the family or civil war. No, I see students drive themselves into scary mental places because they are worried they aren’t taking enough AP classes; they fear that they won’t live up to their parents standards; they think they can’t keep up on the rat race to college.

No one’s telling them that they shouldn’t be in the rat race at all.

I’ve heard of students suffering from such great anxiety about what is to come after high school that they have suicidal thoughts, which sometimes lead to bodily harm or death. My own students have cried in meetings when talking about their stresses in applying for college, or freak out when something does not go exactly as planned, or drive themselves crazy comparing themselves to their friends.

Far worse than hysteria, some students give up and resolve to retire to a state of complacency because they have come to believe they have no control over their environments. Why is nobody telling students that this petty high school shit doesn’t even matter in the end?

Just be. Just live. Devour all the goodness.

When I tell people that I am a counselor who helps students plan their high school and post-high school paths, some think that I am contributing to the madness.

This hurts.

Because my very purpose is to do the exact opposite. I do everything I can to make light of high school and college planning. To help students have fun again, to pursue hobbies and to push themselves only to the point of having a fun challenge.

I’d like to propose something to the college planning space…

Let’s help our students get out of the scary places their minds have gone since entering high school. Maybe we can be so daring as to instill that kindergarten spirit that they have long since forgotten. Whether we like to believe it or not, we as mentors, educators and parents are contributing to these fearful beliefs. We are creating the background noise, the pressure, the standards…


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