Stress, anxiety, and depression impacts teens – how to cope

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An increasing number of adolescents are affected by mental health issues, which can lower the body's ability to fight disease, negatively impact grades and lead to general unhappiness.

Social worker Lisa Shinn says there have always been problems in our society but we now have better tools to identify these issues “better, easier, and quicker.

Mental health issues are “more widely talked about, but it's always been in existence,” according to Debbie Mann, owner of a West Milford, N.J. practice. “It's not that mental health issues among adolescents are increasing, it's that the stigma has shifted and kids are talking about it more—especially with social media and group chats, word spreads quickly.”

Even teenagers who don't have an “official” diagnosis can still be struggling significantly.

“The way we do a full blow mental health diagnosis is we take a look at the symptoms a client is experiencing, such as the severity and how long he's experienced them,” said Jody Vesuvio, a partner and therapist at the Counseling and Wellness Center. “Even teenagers who may not meet criteria for a diagnosis are experiencing more and more distress, depression, anxiety, and struggles with coping, lacking the necessary skills to function as well as they could.”

There are many elements that factor into stress and anxiety: academics, social media, poverty, “you can't really pinpoint one reason 'why,' but all things add up,” said Lisa Sassi, the nursing coordinator in the Monroe-Woodbury school district. “Family systems have changed” and there are fewer two parent households and more one parent households, so sometimes kids get left home alone, “which can be difficult because we can provide the support at school, but it's not followed up with at home.”

In addition to this, diet can also play a significant role in mental health.

Telltale signs and symptoms of poor mental health include:

Any sudden shift in behavior, peer groups, or interests, whether positive or negative.

Change in function, which looks a little different for everyone. If you see them struggling to function in day-to-day life, that's a huge indicator. Life is hard, but it doesn't have to be beyond their abilities.

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