Of Note: Protective Factors

Submitted By:
Meghan Tally, On Sabbatical, Davidson, NC

Teen Girls Report Record Levels of Sadness, CDC Finds” by Azeen Ghorayshiand Roni Caryn Rabin
New York Times, February 13, 2023

Teens Are Struggling Right Now. What Can Parents Do?” by Melinda Wenner Moyer
New York Times, February 20, 2023

American Teens Are Really Miserable. Why?” by Ross Douthat
New York Times, February 18, 2023

“This moment in time is like no other,” reports psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour. “Young people are telling us that they are in crisis,” says Dr. Kathleen Ethier, head of the adolescent and school health program at the Centers for Disease Control. “We don’t have enough therapists to care for all these kids,” adds Dr. Victor Fornari, the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry for Northwell Health, New York’s largest health system. Many writers and researchers point to the rise of smartphones and social media as the primary source for our teenage mental health crisis. (In an opinion piece, Ross Douthat blames “social liberalism,” describing “less family stability and weak attachments to religion, with a strong emphasis on self-creation and a strong hostility to ‘normativity’”.) Melinda Wenner Moyer interviews Dr. Lisa Damour on what parents need to know, do, and understand, explaining the importance of helping teens manage feelings and use strategies that bring them relief. Damour makes a distinction between what is uncomfortable versus unmanageable for them, advocating for parent curiosity and empathy at home (in what administrators may find to be a helpful parent-education piece). What about schools? Are we supporting students with curiosity and empathy, strategies, and therapists? What is a school’s purview when it comes to mental health and wellness? Recent years have shown a surge in emphasis on social-emotional learning in independent schools and a willingness to inquire about what leads students to feel connected. According to Dr. Ethier, such attention is critical: “Young people who feel connected in middle school and high school 20 years later have better mental health, are less likely to be perpetrators or victims of violence, are less likely to use substances, and are less likely to attempt suicide. So school connectedness is a very powerful protective factor.”

Student Wellness & Safety