Under Stress

Teens in America are struggling. It's especially true in Colorado, where rates of mental health issues, substance abuse and suicide are rising. We investigate the causes — and possible fixes.

Dozens of teens have shared intimate stories about the pressures they face, and explained what they’d like to see change. They describe everything from intense academic pressure to social pressure to look a certain way to school shootings — even as they figure out who they’re supposed to be.

Over the past three years, Colorado has seen the highest increase in teen suicides in the nation — jumping 58 percent, more than twice what the nation experienced. About a third of Colorado youth report feeling sad or hopeless according to a survey of more than 50,000 middle and high school students. In short, thousands of Colorado teens are dealing with mental health issues and the everyday tensions of 21st Century life.

Over the next few months, CPR News will untangle the factors that have created the ultimate pressure cooker for some teens. We’ll go into their world through audio diaries, interviews, reflection and analysis. Most importantly, we’ll examine what teens, families and schools can do to let some of the pressure loose.


Chapter 2: The School

Technology, the law, college costs and our culture have made academic stress much worse for teens today

The pressure to excel in school is taking an enormous toll on teenagers. Academic stress is cited as the number one stressor in teens’ lives in one national survey this year. And it’s not just the “overachievers” who are experiencing high anxiety — so are the “underachievers.”


Chapter 3: Existential Angst

Teens know where to hide from shooters, but they don’t know what their futures hold

Then-sixth-grader Elise wrote her will — declaring her wishes after her death — in the spring of last year, when a woman suspected of making threats to schools in Colorado triggered hundreds of schools to close.


Copyright © , Colorado Public Radio


Jenny Brundin, Reporter

Ashley Dean, Reporter

John Daley, Reporter

Avery Lill, Reporter

Kate Schimel, Editor

Contributors: Taylor Allen, Claire Cleveland, Michael Elizabeth Sakas, Hayley Sanchez


Kevin J. Beaty, Photojournalist, Illustrator

Hart Van Denburg, Photojournalist, Photo Editor

Francie Swidler, Social Media

Daniel Mescher, Music

Matt Herz, Mixing


Daniel J. Schneider, Web Designer & Developer

Jim Hill, Digital Editor

Dave Burdick, Managing Editor, Digital

Rachel Estabrook, Executive Producer