Cloverdale teens write about the most important issues youth face today. (Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash)

YOUTH VOICE: Teens are used to putting up a ‘nice front’

We need to talk about what’s really happening.

Editor’s note: These submissions were part of a special feature in the Cloverdale Reporter’s September 19, 2018 edition.

Lack of faith in ourselves has far-reaching impact

By Christina Park

Teenagers are accustomed to portraying a nice front when it is not necessarily that way inside. Some do not know they are falling apart inwardly and are apathetic to it, while some are conscious of it and develop things like depression and anxiety, side effects of the root of the problem

I suppose the issue stems from different sources. Teen culture itself is pretty superficial, posting photos with filters on Instagram to prove to ourselves and to others that we are doing fine when our lives don’t actually look like that. We don’t know how to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with our friends because we are accustomed to instant gratification, which we get from watching those 12-minute long YouTube videos while procrastinating from homework. Teachers expect the bare minimum from us, and though a lot of us do extra-curricular activities and work, a lot of us walk through life like zombies without feeling a sense of fulfilling joy.

The root of the problem is that we do not believe in ourselves. Instagram, YouTube, alcohol and drugs are all pathways to escape reality. Our generation needs more confidence to do things, because we are certainly meant to be more than our Instagram statuses. We are so much more than what others think of us.

If a seed were to be planted for our generation to grow, I think that would be one of faith. Faith in ourselves, in others, and in our futures. Even though we may not see it immediately, each of us have a purpose to be here. So find what you are passionate about. Pursue it. Invest in more meaningful relationships. The future is bright. It is only up to you and I to possess it.

Dismissal of mental health issues in teens is a serious problem

By Heather Brand

Given how common it is for teens to suffer from mental illness, you would think that mental health issues would be given an appropriate level of importance. Sadly, as many teens can tell you, this is often not the case.

Many teens suffer from mental illness, most commonly depression and anxiety, but despite this fact, mental illnesses are still brushed off by many. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, as many as one in seven B.C. youth will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, and between 50 and 70 per cent of those illnesses will show up before the age of 18.

Anxiety disorders are the most common to affect youth, and depression affects as many as 3.5 per cent of B.C. children and teens.

Although I’m lucky enough not to have been diagnosed with a mental illness, I have friends who have not been so fortunate, and their struggles are often dismissed offhandedly.

One of my friends has anxiety, and she has been told multiple times to simply “calm down.” And it’s not uncommon in a single school day to hear more than one person say that they feel “so depressed.” Making light of such serious issues is a routine occurrence among many, teens and adults alike.

Because of this dismissal, plenty of struggling teens never seek help. Certain teens may never even realize they have a mental illness, or that they can seek help.

The majority of the people who I’ve spoken to about the severity of this problem simply dismiss me, essentially saying that it’s the fault of our generation and that we simply need to learn to deal with our problems. I could not disagree with this more.

Although certain mental illnesses can be caused by stress, they largely have neurological or genetic causes. They are in no way a sign of weakness of our generation or of the individuals suffering from them, and they should never be treated as such.

Mental illness, especially those common in teens, is a serious problem that needs to be treated with due importance.

Threat of debt holds teens back

By Katie McKinney

Post-secondary education, and the threat of going into debt, is known to give teens stress.

Most teens are unaware of what they want to do for work, or what degree they wish to pursue. They are stuck in a limbo of wanting to try things, but not being able to. This limbo is caused by the costs of post-secondary education and the fear of debt.

According to Statistics Canada, the average yearly tuition for a full-time undergraduate program in Canada was $6,571 in 2017. This expense, coupled with the cost of living, can grow to be a massive amount. In Canada, just over one-third of young adults, ages 20 to 34, live with their parents.

Knowing these facts, and being aware that it might happen to them, high schoolers are simply “settling” on jobs. Said jobs may not be the ones they want or enjoy but are easier to obtain and cheaper to study for. Having no interest in a job, however, can lead to depression and anxiety, according to a 2006 study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Teens are losing their drives to act on their passions because of the big dollar sign hanging over their head. As children they are told to “follow their dreams” but as they grow they come to realize that that may not be possible. Thinking about debt that they don’t have yet stresses teens out — and knowing that’s the case isn’t doing anything to solve the problem.

We need to talk about anxiety

By Nora Trépanier

As many as 12 per cent — or half a million — British Columbians have anxiety disorders, and many of those people are teens.

Anxiety comes from different sources in different people’s lives. Many teens get anxiety at school because of groups, friends, grades, and what others think of them. It can also be caused by news or health concerns. Teens who have anxiety are often worried, fearful and stressed. They can also refuse going to school, ask a lot of ‘What if . . ?” questions, and feel sick sometimes.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, almost one half of people who feel they have depression or anxiety do not seek a doctor’s help.

It’s important to talk about it, because if you don’t do something about your anxiety it will get worse. Even just starting to talk about it to someone you trust can help. It doesn’t have to be your parents. It could be a cousin, a friend, even a teacher or counselor. But you need to take the first step.

Anxiety affects a lot of people, but if more people started to talk about it then we could help alleviate this problem.

Teens need sleep

By Sahana Johal

Many people believe that the life of a teen is nowhere near as difficult as the life of a working adult. But we do, in fact, have our own trials to face, and the combination of commitments related to school, homework and additional activities often do not leave enough time for sleep.

This problem is worsened by early high school start times.

High school students typically require 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Due to adolescent sleep patterns and daily activities, the average high school student does not fall asleep until 11:00 p.m. In order to achieve 9 hours of sleep, teenagers would need to wake up at 9:00 a.m.

Since the first bell of the school day rings at approximately 8:00 a.m., by 9:00 a.m. students in Cloverdale are well on their way to the second class of the day. Many students arrive half asleep, and others do not attend that first class.

Furthermore, early high school start times in Cloverdale can lead to sleep deprivation. From my personal experience, I find it very difficult to focus and be productive during class when I have only slept six hours.

Lack of sleep can lead to health and academic disadvantages. Starting the school day later can promote happier, healthier and more successful teenage lives.

Substance use among teens

By Jasmine Randhawa

The prevalence of substance use among teens is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Drug dealers are approaching teens through social media. The transactions are in coded language, and hard to track. Drugs are being sold on Craigslist, Amazon, Tinder, Instagram and other platforms.

Starting drugs at an early age makes chances of addiction more probable. And, due to their lack of maturity, youth are more likely to go down the wrong path.

There are many reasons why a young person may become involved in drugs. It could be the compulsion to “fit in,” or simply just a desire to escape.

To prevent addiction, parents should talk to their children about drugs and also keep an eye on their technology. Keeping your children engaged in activities can also reduce chances of them getting into drugs.

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