Facing Your Fears: Dealing With Mental Health in High School and Beyond

Graduating from high school can be a rush of terror and excitement. No matter their plans for the future, high schoolers looking ahead face the daunting reality of new routines and challenges, and the certainty of new faces to accompany them along the way. Saying goodbye to close friends is by far one of the strangest and most difficult parts of the extended process that is graduation -- that, and trying to sit down and think about what to do with the rest of your life.

Even those who’ve already graduated -- whether they’ve gone off to college or started working in one form or another -- will hardly have a definitive answer when it comes to the big question: what next? Of course, there aren’t any grand secrets for discovering or channelling your interests and passions, and finding out what makes you happy. Like sophomore-year chemistry, these things are a long process of trial and error. They’ll require a whole lot of time and attention in the years to come.

Unique Challenges for Kids Today

Teens and young adults in 2019, however, carry a particularly heavy burden. High school students themselves report that anxiety and depression are their leading cause for concern, with 70 percent describing them as “major problems” among their peers. Bullying, which for adults looking back is likely a more tangible and familiar teenage epidemic, holds second place at 55 percent.

Depression and other mental health crises aren’t limited to high schools. For seven years in a row, anxiety has been the number one reason for college students seeking help at campus mental-health services, and roughly two thirds report struggling with overwhelming anxiety.

While bullying, the pressure to succeed in school, and other timeless sources of stress are undoubtedly major contributors to the mental health crisis in today’s schools, there are a variety of distinctly 21st-century factors that might seem foreign to parents trying to place themselves in their children’s shoes. Between new standardized tests, the spread of smartphones and social media, and the increasingly precarious and part-time jobs on offer for recent high school and college graduates alike -- to name a few -- the timeless stress surrounding graduation has been inflected and intensified by problems unique to millennials and Generation Z. For parents and their kids, identifying these is an important first step in learning to deal with them.

IRL: A Mini-Conference for High Schoolers and Young Adults

Whether or not you’re still in school, it’s never the wrong time to do a bit of constructive reflection and planning ahead. MONTCLAIR BOUNCE is jump-starting the conversation with IRL: A Mini-Conference for High Schoolers and Young Adults, co-sponsored by Montclair Public Schools and Montclair Fund for Excellence in Education.

Join us on Wednesday, June 5 from 6:00 to 9:00 at Renaissance at Rand for an evening of music, food, peers, and experts offering advice for life after graduation. The future can be a frightening thing, but there are a variety of tools for confronting it in the people and places around us. BOUNCE is committed to opening up these resources and providing concrete, creative solutions to problems in our community.

Interested in learning more about IRL and all things BOUNCE? Check out our events page!

For information on identifying and dealing with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems affecting teens and young adults today, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guide is a great place to start.

Ryan Mernin