Our teens are silently suffering…we must listen.
Opening Up the Dialogue
As I embark on this New Year I am resolute in the decision to dedicate more time and energy towards helping families in the crisis we are witnessing and experiencing in our community with our young people. Each day that passes in both my professional therapy practice and as a member of this culture, I feel more and more pulled by a responsibility to expand the ways of helping teens and young adults who are struggling and suffering, much of the time silently and without overt signs. The demands our fast-paced, achievement oriented, individualistic, and media driven culture brings is literally killing our kids, the next generation, and we all have an obligation to respond to their pleas for help. I will help guide the way and walk alongside others to open more space for communication, support, and solutions.
Over the years in my practice I have had the privilege, and continue to have the privilege of, working with some of the brightest, most talented, and passionate teens; adolescents who, on the outside most would think they don’t need help at all. While spending time with these teens and young adults and their families, there is an overarching theme that presents itself day after day,- they are exhausted. On the outside everything looks perfect or damn near; inside they are panicked, overwhelmed, sick, depleted, losing sleep,and desperate for relief. There is often a level of hopelessness that is pervasive and all-consuming. From this place, it is a frightening (false) reality to them that there is no way out. And for some suicide seems like the only way to escape it. This “solution” is being completed more and more. Let's listen to and honor those we've already lost and let their actions drive us toward new solutions. We owe it to them, to their families, to ourselves, and to those kids we can still save.
I am not talking about teens with clinical major depression. These aren't teens who are holed up in their room and who don't care. I am talking about the kid who often has great academic standing, is remarkably talented as an athlete or artist, who has many friends, a wonderful family, and a full life. The ones who care so so much. The value given to busy-ness, achieving more, and left brain knowledge has our kids losing their sense of wonder, play, passion, creativity, and ability to be satisfied in just being. This has not equipped our kids with the ability to cope with the complex feelings that are a part of each and every person’s individual human experience. They know more information, can out math any of us, but they have lost the ability to rest and to feel their worth outside of their work, looks, or likes.
While I have sat in anger and sadness about the reality our kids (and therefore all of us) are facing, it also becomes clear that we are in an era that is very different than any before. While I was going through my teen years in the ‘90s, relatively not all that long ago, we did not have social media nor the other technology that our teens' lives are centered around. It was simpler. And with that said, it was soooooo not simple. Being a teenager is never simple or easy. They are navigating so much. It is no wonder we have no idea how to handle what is happening so fast and without any guidebook; how to healthfully guide our youth in this unknown territory. Yet still, there is an undeniable hope that we can change the course for these kiddos, and for our future generations.
People are more aware now than I have ever seen in my lifetime. And we are taking this awareness into action in ways that truly creates change. I am ready to take my practice, knowledge, experience, and passion to another level in 2018 and beyond. I hope you will join me as we listen more, speak up more, slow down more, and love more. Stay tuned for more on this. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me (and to each other), and in the meantime: hug your kids, listen to them,-truly listen to them, see them,- really see them as they are, help them rest, support them to get outside and create more without evaluation or judgment, and please please take care of yourselves (because they are watching).