The Most Emotionally Distressed Young People

Submitted By:
Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety? by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
New York Times Magazine, October 11, 2017

In this New York Times Magazine piece, Benoit Denizet-Lewis explores the student landscape in an age of anxiety, wherein “anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling service.” For independent schools, where we are alert to the prices of privilege, Denizet-Lewis offers another look at privileged youths, calling them “the most emotionally distressed young people in America.” Getting close to some of the anxious students themselves, along with their parents and counselors, Denizet-Lewis find that, among the anxiety-producing factors are disease, terrorism, and cyber-bullying, with social media – and smartphone use more generally – playing a key role in an anxious environment. Furthermore, “anxious teenagers tend to come from anxious parents,” so solutions have to target parents as well as their children. As he meets with anxious young people, Denizet-Lewis learns about treatments ranging from medication to exposure therapy. One word, he says, “kept coming up”: resiliency. A key part of the current debate hinges on which support efforts enable and reinforce anxiety as opposed to helping to combat it. We’ve raised “a generation of young people increasingly insistent on safe spaces ”wherein they do not necessarily cultivate “the ability to tolerate distress and uncertainty.” Reading Denizet-Lewis’ piece won’t solve the vast anxiety problem, of course, but it does help us to see and think more clearly about the challenges at hand.

Student Wellness & Safety
Psychology & Human Development