One of the most alarming trends in our country right now is the rise in depression and anxiety among teenagers. According to the Independent School Health Check, a national survey working with hundreds of schools, 32% of high school students experience depression, and 42% of them experience anxiety. While the numbers at Burroughs are half of what they are nationally, they still give us tremendous pause.
There is no shortage of theories as to what is causing this increase. The rise in social media use makes it very difficult for kids to pull away from difficult or painful situations and regroup the way we could when we were younger. The political climate in the country has grown so volatile that it pushes into the private lives of students. There is the changing landscape of college admissions. Then, there are the number of school shootings and hate crimes. There is much uncertainty for our kids, and they seem to be taking it harder than ever.
Last month, we were lucky to have Dr. Lisa Damour visit Burroughs to speak with students about managing stress and to speak with parents about how to support kids through stressful times. One of the great messages she gave was that stress is not bad — we improve our strength and endurance in exercise by pushing ourselves to improve. It's also how education works, by asking more and more of ourselves each year, so that we improve intellectually.
But we've learned that in an environment where we do have a growth mindset, and we do want constantly to see the kids improve, there is much we must do to support them. To that end, we've put together a counseling and wellness team that is truly exceptional. They have helped us put together a 7 to 12 grade curriculum of support that is both age-appropriate and informational.
In our 7th grade seminar, which meets weekly, students address and discuss sexting; dangerous words; vaping; and puberty. In our 8th grade seminar, they learn about nutrition; sleep; mental health; mindfulness; teen brain development; alcohol; eating disorders; body image and media; relational aggression; and digital drama. Topics covered in 9th grade health class include stress; time management; depression; suicide; cyberbullying; addiction and recovery; and sex education.
For our 10th grade health day, they attend seminars that cover the neuroscience behind the effects of substance use on the teen brain as well as steroids and supplements and peer pressure. During the 11th grade health day, they learn about the myth of perfection and nutrition; mindfulness and yoga; and healthy relationships. As seniors, they discuss taking care of their body at college; myths and realities about sex; understanding the differences between flirting, sexual harassment and assault; personal safety; and mental health in college.
On top of the curriculum, we offer an abundance of clubs and support groups for students, and constant programming for parents through the remarkable work of the Family Network. But all of the programming in the world doesn't help unless it is delivered by genuine and caring people. We are so fortunate to be at a school where faculty, staff, coaches, parents and students care so deeply about one another and are willing to reach out when they have concerns for another person’s well-being.
If you are ever concerned about your child, or about any student or community member at Burroughs, please know that you can contact our counseling and wellness team at any time:
Jennifer Jones, Director of Counseling
Sally Kilbride, Counseling Team
Kim Bouldin-Jones, Health Educator
Casie Tomlinson, School Nurse
Prue Gershman, Counseling Team
And, of course, you can always contact your child's principal, advisor, or any trusted adult at Burroughs, and they can get you in touch with the support you need.