More high school students struggling with stress; Doctors concerned
More and more high school students are struggling with stress, resulting in teenagers developing complaints and sometimes being too sick to attend school. The Association of Pediatricians (AJN) and school psychologists are concerned, they told NOS.
According to AJN vice-president Raquel Abrahams, stress complaints must be identified as early as possible. “The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the stress, anxiety, and depressive feelings will go off the rails.” Teens may end up needing specialized help. “Which often would not have been necessary if you caught it early. Moreover, there are already huge waiting lists in specialist care.”
While prevention and early intervention are essential, a shortage of pediatricians and youth workers in mental healthcare often makes that difficult. The care of youth doctors and school psychologists is also not regulated in the same way in every municipality. For example, some municipalities require children to see a pediatrician if they’re sick from school for a certain number of days, while others don’t. The AJN wants this arranged nationally.
School psychologist Gezina Topper also advocates for better contact between teachers and students. “We are concerned about whether a school notices when young people report sick for the first time.” It would help enormously if a teacher reached out early, she thinks. “That can already have a very stress-reducing effect and does not have to involve a psychologist at all.” But she acknowledged that teachers are also under enormous pressure and stress.
Young people themselves often don’t realize that their complaints are caused by stress, so they need an adult to check-in. “They notice: I don’t sleep very well, I worry a lot, I have a headache or stomach ache. But they don’t always know that the cause may be that they’ve had more tension for longer than they can actually endure.”
Teaching kids that their mental- and physical health are connected can also help. But according to both pediatricians and school psychologists, that does not address the root of the problem. “One cause is also the performance society we live in,” Abrahams said.