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.
Teens spend, on average, more than seven hours a day using screens, and 60 percent of teens themselves say spending too much time online is a “major” problem. As we’ve dug into what’s behind rising rates of teen mental health issues, one factor came up again and again: The cell phone.
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.”
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.
Lawmakers in Colorado passed a law that allows students as young as 12 years old to get mental health services without parental approval. But not every district followed through.
As part of CPR’s Teens Under Stress series, Colorado Matters followed up with four students to see how they’re coping with the effects that COVID-19 has had on their lives.
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