Childhood anxiety has doubled. Let's fix that.
Updated: May 18
Twice as many kids have anxiety today than 10 years ago
The American Psychological Association recently cited a study that found anxiety disorders in school-aged children more than doubled over the past 15 years. Infectious diseases, social isolation, war, and hyper-political tensions that were once the concern of grown-ups have been thrust upon our youth. Increased tech access, algorithms, and 24-hour news exposure are a few of the easy-to-identify villains. Maybe now it's clear why major tech moguls don't give their kids devices [hint].
Institutions try taking action: The most economical path for state and local governments to address rising anxiety levels might be through schools. By training teachers and other student-facing staff in pedagogical methods that: 1) support, 2) affirm healthy identity, and 3) encourage students in their strengths, public, private, and home school networks can reach the broadest number of students through educational practices and curriculum. If we are to believe the APA-cited statistics, around 80% of students' needs will be supported through a general supportive pedagogy.
What about the other 20%? Well, also included in the APA paper was a push to further the practice of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). While the paper indicates that this is typically the role of trained psychologists, it also references tech-apps (I know, I know...) that serve to reinforce a healthy identity rooted in individual strengths and creativity. One possible measure could be to train all teachers in the use of CBT and understanding thought processes and mental frameworks. This solution could be embedded into university-level teacher training programs and on-the-job training for all educational staff.
Organizations like Five Star Life have created and provide mindset, character, and leadership programs that offer video curriculum and essential skills that all children and young people need to find success in and beyond their educational career. Five Star Life is forward thinking and speaks to the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of young people and their families from all walks of life.
Detractors of emotional support in schools might argue that schools should be focused on rigorous learning, academic achievement, healthy competition, and social strengthening. Teachers will also likely wonder how they would integrate "CBT" practice into an already overcrowded curriculum with limited time capacity, and burgeoning responsibilities. One thing is certain: times are changing, and until we recognize this and seek to define what is the purpose of school, this issue (like many others) will likely be used as a political poker chip.
Perhaps someone should write The Purpose Driven School. It might do us all some good.