NORTH TEXAS (CBSNewsTexas) – Teenagers today face high rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
In Texas, suicide is the second leading cause of death for students ages 10 and older, according to the State Department of Health and Human Services.
“If you have kids who are negative, they don’t believe in themselves, nobody’s ever uplifted them, nobody’s ever told them they’re worthy – it affects everything,” said Tashina Calhoun, who is on a mission to make sure children and schools are safe.
Through her nonprofit, One Belief Organization, Calhoun gives mental health presentations at schools across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. She wants to help kids learn to process their emotions in ways that don’t end in violence against themselves or others.
“Understand that if you’re feeling depressed, if you’re feeling lonely, if you’re having harmful thoughts, that you” she said.
On Monday, Calhoun spent the day at Uplift Summit Preparatory in Arlington, giving multiple presentations to different age groups.
“With so many things that have to happen in a school day, we have to make sure we prioritize just the self,” said Dr. Avril El-Amin, director of social and emotional learning for Uplift Education. “Just the self.”
Young people today are experiencing unmatched levels of anxiety and depression. Stressors are everywhere, from the most recent mass shooting in Allen to the distorted reality often presented on social media.
“People will see these very edited photos, and they’ll think that’s what they’re supposed to look like,” said Eliza Thornton, a 13-year-old student at Uplift Summit Preparatory.
There’s growing evidence that social media can lead to harassment, affect body image, and exacerbate mental health issues.
“Teens, in particular, that are on social media and technology for an hour or two or more are actually more likely to experience anxiety, depression, isolation,” said Dr. Nicholas Westers, a Children’s Health clinical psychologist and associate professor at UT Southwestern.
Dr. Westers says parents need to teach their children how to critically evaluate what they see online and how algorithms work. He also recommends putting boundaries on when and where phones and other devices can be used in the house, especially at night.
“We know poor, inadequate sleep is a risk factor for so many things including the very depression they’re experiencing, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors,” Dr. Westers said.
Having candid conversations about these issues, whether at home or at school, is key.
“I think it provides people the confidence to go and ask for help, to talk to their friends about it to be like hey, I’m struggling,” Thornton said.
Students at Uplift Summit Preparatory said their main takeaway from Calhoun’s presentation was that life is a gift.
“Just take a minute, get off your phone, look at yourself in the mirror, start saying positive affirmations,” said Jayvieir Williams, 13. “Everyone is given a life for a reason.”
And if they’re given tools at a young age to improve their mental health, advocates believe it will in turn help them turn into happier, more resilient, healthier adults.