NORTH TEXAS (CBSNewsTexas) – Teenagers today face high rates of depression, anxiety and loneliness.
According to the Texas State Department of Health and Human Services, suicide is the second leading cause of death for students age 10 and older.
“If you have kids who are negative, don’t believe in themselves, no one ever raised their spirits, no one ever told them they were worth it – it affects everything,” said Tashina Calhoun, whose mission is to provide children and school they’re safe.
Through her non-profit organization One religious organization, Calhoun gives presentations on mental health in schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. She wants to help children learn to process their emotions in a way that doesn’t end up being violent towards themselves or others.
“Understand that if you feel depressed, if you feel lonely, if you have harmful thoughts, then talk to an adult and get help” she said.
On Monday, Calhoun spent the day at the Uplift Summit Preparatory in Arlington, giving multiple age-group presentations.
“With so many things that need to happen in a school day, we need to make sure we only prioritize ourselves,” said Dr. Avril El-Amin, Director of Social and Emotional Learning at Uplift Education. “Just me”.
Today’s young people experience unparalleled levels of anxiety and depression. Stressors are everywhere, from the recent Allen mass shooting to the distorted reality often portrayed on social media.
“People will see these very edited photos and think that’s what they’re supposed to look like,” said Eliza Thornton, a 13-year-old student at Uplift Summit Preparatory.
There is growing evidence that social media can lead to harassment, affect body image and exacerbate mental health problems.
“Teenagers in particular who use social media and technology for an hour or two or more are actually more likely to experience anxiety, depression and isolation,” said Dr. Nicholas Westers, a child health clinical psychologist and associate professor at UT Southwestern.
Dr Westers says parents need to teach their children how to critically evaluate what they see online and how algorithms work. She also recommends setting limits on when and where you can use phones and other devices in your home, especially at night.
“We know that poor, inadequate sleep is a risk factor for many things, including the very depression they experience, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts and behavior,” said Dr. Westers.
Honest conversations about these topics, whether at home or at school, are key.
“I think it gives people the confidence to go and ask for help, to talk to friends about it, to say, hey, I’m struggling,” Thornton said.
Uplift Summit Preparatory students said their main takeaway from Calhoun’s presentation was that life is a gift.
“Take a moment, put your phone down, look at yourself in the mirror and start saying positive affirmations,” said 13-year-old Jayvieir Williams. “Everyone has their own life for a reason.”
And if given the tools at a young age to improve their mental health, supporters believe that in turn will help them turn into happier, more resilient and healthier adults.