New Tool May Help Solve the Teen Mental Health Crisis

Tool for Teen Mental Health Crisis

As rates of mental health issues in teens reach epidemic proportions, a new intervention that reframes the way they view stressors shows great promise in improving both psychological and physiological health.

Given the exponentially growing mental health crisis among teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with several other medical organizations, recently declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.

While many societal factors are being implicated, researchers at the University of Rochester recently conducted a study that focused on the ordinary, day-to-day stresses that teens face, such as how they’re perceived by others.

Psychologist Jeremy Jamieson, who headed up the study, told the University of Rochester News Center, “For adolescents, social hierarchy, social comparisons, and peer evaluations have always been important, but now it’s there all the time… people are receiving a daily stream of likes, dislikes, and comments via social media, which makes for a constant state of social evaluation. it’s one of the most damaging things we’ve seen for adolescents.”

While these “social-evaluative stressors” can lead directly to depression and anxiety, it is how teens deal with them, experts say, that determines the psychological outcome.

While conventional thinking equates stress with something “bad,” Jamieson says, “stress is a normal and even defining feature of adolescence… for those of us who study processes and psychophysiology, stress is just any demand for change — it’s neither good nor bad.”

And when teens avoid stress, experts say, they lose out on the opportunity to grow from the unavoidable situations that cause it.

The intervention developed by Jamieson and his colleagues was informed by the idea that how we respond to stress can either lead to mental health issues or to resilience.

Consisting of a 30-minute online training module, the intervention takes a “stress optimization” approach defined in the study as, “Learning to engage positively with rigorous but useful social and academic stressors, rather than seeking indiscriminately to minimize or avoid stress.”

The self-administered online training works by helping teens develop what researchers call “synergistic mindsets.” The first is a growth mindset, which is the idea that one’s intelligence can be developed in response to a challenge. 

The other is what the researchers call a “stress-can-be-enhancing mindset.” This is the idea that one’s physiological stress responses, such as sweaty palms and racing heart,  are not only not harmful, but can actually enhance one’s performance in challenging situations.

Researchers administered the intervention to a large group of adolescents and found that it dramatically improved biological responses, psychological well-being, and academic performance. Given how simple the intervention is, researchers see huge potential in large-scale implementation and are planning further trials.

The key takeaway, says Jamieson, is that this approach is, “Teaching people about how stress can be useful. That’s a really big, novel idea for a lot of people. Stress is typically not seen as something that is beneficial and adaptive, it’s seen as something that’s damaging. We’re really trying to work against that misconception.”

Mindfulness Techniques Dramatically Improve Kids' Sleep in Study

Mindfulness Training Improves Kids Sleep

A new study shows that training children in mindfulness techniques can dramatically improve their sleep.

Recent statistics suggest we are in the midst of an epidemic of poor sleep, and children are especially vulnerable to the consequences.

Dr. Christina Chick is a developmental psychologist who recently headed a study at Stanford University that looked at a mindfulness-based solution to sleep issues in children.

“Kids, depending on the age, but between elementary school and junior high, should really be getting nine to 11 hours of sleep per night,” Chick said. “The best data that we have suggests that most kids on average are getting seven hours. So, if you think about that, on average, at least two hours loss night after night after night, that adds up to compound to a significant loss of the restorative functions of sleep.”

Research is continually uncovering the many vital functions that only happen during sleep and are essential for overall health, particularly in children. 

“We think of sleep as a passive process, and in fact, it’s a very active one,” Chick said. “So, when your body goes to sleep, your brain in many ways goes to work. Part of that work is consolidating memories, so all of that wonderful learning that happens during the school day, but also social and emotional memory. Sleep is also when a lot of growing happens; if kids are losing out on two hours plus of sleep per night, that starts to add up to a disadvantage over time.”

Read Article

More In Personal Development

Our unique blend of yoga, meditation, personal transformation, and alternative healing content is designed for those seeking to not just enhance their physical, spiritual, and intellectual capabilities, but to fuse them in the knowledge that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

Use the same account and membership for TV, desktop, and all mobile devices. Plus you can download videos to your device to watch offline later.

Desktop, laptop, tablet, phone devices with Gaia content on screens

Discover what Gaia has to offer.

Testing message will be here