SALT LAKE CITY — I won't bury the lead: Anxiety has become a crippling problem — especially for Utah teens. And the Deseret News is launching an initiative through in-depth reporting, analysis, expert commentary and events to identify this growing problem and find the solutions that will help our teenagers manage it and become happy, productive adults.
My Deseret News colleague, reporter Lois Collins, and others on our staff are researching and reporting on what has become of paramount importance to individuals and families suffering from anxiety and issues related to it.
Lois puts it this way:
"Anxiety is a challenge of degrees, from making one stumble to freezing one in place. And it has traveling companions, frequently accompanied by depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic, or post-traumatic stress.
"The issues that arise vary depending on age, but like a snowball, it grows and speeds up, cutting an increasingly large swath through a young life, unless its progress is checked.
"According to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report, 80 percent of teens with a diagnosable anxiety issue do not get help, though help is available. Here’s a sampling of why that’s bad news for youths, their families and their futures: Untreated anxiety predicts later panic attacks, depression, separation anxiety disorder, behavior problems, social phobias and even suicide.
"On U.S. college campuses last year, 71 percent of the 161,014 mental health visits seeking treatment included anxiety as a key complaint. Experts say anxiety that is not dealt with can stall the launch into adulthood. It impacts whether young people finish school, serve LDS missions, get good jobs, marry and more. It impacts not just their future, but that of the entire nation."
So what's to be done?
The Deseret News has tried to bring the crisis of suicide into the open and has explored contributing causes and solutions, which it continues to do. Last year we committed to in-depth work on the opioid crisis gripping the nation, which had particular resonance and an outsized impact in Utah. That work was widely praised for bringing understanding and solutions to the state.
This year we are exploring solutions to anxiety, beginning first with an exploration of just what it is. Years ago we didn't even have the language to deal with it. What's the difference between anxiety and stress? If one was stressed, the response was often, "buck up" or "get over it." Is there any merit to that today? Or does such an attitude contribute to problems that lead to dire consequences?
With skills, practice and support, anxiety doesn’t have to rewrite a teen’s future. For some, it may become a rough patch they look back on as a learning experience, while for others, it may be an ongoing, but manageable challenge. The key is that it has to be faced head on.
As Lois notes: "Every source imaginable agrees that anxiety and depression are the No. 1 and No. 2 complaint in terms of mental health challenges."
As part of the launch of this initiative, the Deseret News is hosting two screenings of the film "Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety" by IndieFlix, for parents and teens. We are showing it in Park City and in Herriman, two communities tragically touched most recently by suicide.
After the screenings, Boyd Matheson, Deseret News opinion editor will moderate a panel that includes Karin Gornick, producer of the film, and Jenny Howe, licensed therapist with degrees in psychology and child and family studies.
The screenings and discussion will provide parents and teens with insight and resources to better deal with anxiety. The events are free to attend but registration is required. Follow this series at www.deseretnews.com/anxiety for more information and registration.
To submit questions for the panel discussion, explore ways to bring the event to your community or other questions contact Kylie Neslen at email@example.com.
• In Park City Tuesday, May 29, 7 p.m. Jim Santy Auditorium, Park City Library. 1255 Park Ave. To register online for Park City, click here.
• In Herriman Wednesday, May 30, 6;30 p.m. Fort Herriman Middle School 14058 Mirabella Drive. To register online for Herriman, click here.