Are Schools Causing Anxiety and Depression?

Anxiety and depression have always played somewhat of a role in our schools. While not necessarily categorized as such, students and teachers alike have been emotionally and mentally impacted in some way, to some capacity, for a long time now. But recent numbers show a sharp and alarming rise in anxiety and depression-related issues in our students and educators, bringing to light the need for help and information around this subject.

A new study from the University of Missouri shows that 93 percent of elementary school teachers, for example, reported that they are or have experienced high stress in their roles as educators. That’s not to mention a shocking number of adolescents who have become medicated as a result of anxiety and/or depression in recent years as 5.3 percent of students aged 17 or under have been diagnosed with anxiety, a jump from 3.6 percent in 2007.

Social Media and Technology in Schools

Today’s high schoolers and junior high schoolers have been raised around sophisticated technology and are highly engaged in social media and gaming, among other technologies. But with this access, today’s teens face not only regular adolescent issues, but an onslaught of media, advertising, and judgement via social media.

Apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become primary modes of communication for today’s youth as well as primary culprits of stress. Factors such as comparing themselves to their peers have only added to the pressure and stress of growing up in America.

But even without social media, adolescents are still impacted by everyday life in school hallways. Anxiety and depression may be impacted by a number of other factors including:

  • School pressure: Tough competition among their peers mixed with expectations set by their parents have added stress to students to strive for unrealistic perfection.
  • Relationships: From best friend breakups to boyfriends and girlfriends, teens are navigating real relationships that can negatively impact their emotions if a breakup or disagreement takes place.
  • Bullying: This is something that has always been prevalent, but it now taking a bigger toll and finding a bigger foothold. Bullying has been amplified by social media, as mentioned above, and is causing more and more unwanted stress among today’s teens.

But students aren’t the only ones who are feeling under pressure in schools today. Teachers are increasingly becoming diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Things like school budgets, lower pay, bullying from students, and school district discourse could be adding to teacher stress. Educators are even being targeted with claims of unfair treatment toward students, adding even more pressure in their role.

Findings from the American Federation of Teachers found that more than half of the country’s educators point out that their mental health is an issue. Nearly 58 percent sad their overall mental health was not good for seven or more of the previous 30 days.

Teachers have been encouraged to start or join support groups within their schools or buddy up with fellow teachers for some down time to help ease the stress related to their jobs and find solidarity. It’s important to be self-aware when it comes to mental health as well as educated when it comes to the role that anxiety and depression play within our classrooms to help curb this growing epidemic.

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