By Tessa Weinberg
Mom takes the roast beef out of the oven as she calls in Jimmy from playing outside with some neighborhood kids. Dad sits in the living room reading today’s paper while Jenny watches a special on rock star Elvis Presley on the family’s single television set.
But, outside the walls of this picturesque suburban home, a blanket of anxiety covers the United States.
While Americans groomed their front yards to reflect the content suburban lifestyle, they also built bomb shelters in their backyards because of the threat the Cold War posed.
Family life in the 1950s was characterized by the brave face that so many everyday Americans put on when facing possible destruction. Names of suburban developments, like “Fertility Valley,” or “The Rabbit Hutch,” didn’t match the intense and pervasive fear that gave the 1950s the nickname, “the Age of Anxiety.”
However, from today’s society, the situation in the 1950’s isn’t so far off. Feigning security and satisfaction on the surface, with a sea of unease and apprehension roiling underneath describe modern teenagers well.
Michael posts on social media that he had a fun time yesterday with his friends. Rebecca takes selfies of herself smiling, while John perfects his college application which presents himself in the best light possible to impress the admissions officers.
But, at home and away from their friends, these kids, and many teenagers, suffer from feeling that they don’t belong, trying to find themselves amidst stressful stacks of homework.
This everyday stress turns into much more as an increasing number of teens today experience emotional breakdowns and increased diagnoses with mental health issues.
“We live in a time when we should be the happiest that we’ve ever been in human history, but we’re not. School is also a very complicated place now. Kids are being told they’re not going to have a good quality of life if they don’t do every little thing exactly right. They’re scared to death, and therefore rates of depression and anxiety are up,” director of school psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Jeff Bostic said.
Even with the apparent increase in mental health issues within teens, a stigma still exists surrounding social phobias.
Rather than creating an environment where teens can feel at ease, they are forced to continue their trying journey into adulthood, while more are distracted by extreme pressures on the way.
Programs such as TeenScreen or The Developmental Pathways Research Program, are helping to screen teens and pre-teens at a young age to combat the onset of mental illnesses.
However, after such a diagnosis is given, many experts comment that one of the major problems in reversing the rise in mental health issues in teens is access to help. There are simply not enough counselors who can take the time to help stressed teens.
As teens struggle to cope with the stress of their lives on a day-to-day basis, they do their best to portray themselves as happy young adults with lives worth living that they showcase on their various social media platforms.
The problem is that these teenagers don’t have a bomb shelter to run to when things start to explode. This is modern America in the 21st century, not the 1950’s. Let’s strive to better our society and learn from the past by helping the next generation cope with their lives before it is too late.
Get the conversation going by simply reaching out to a teenager in need. Be vocal and don’t be afraid to admit you may need help. Being a teenager is rough, but try and keep things in perspective. Teens, remember that this is not all there is to life. There is so much more beyond high school worth living for, and that turning to self-harm or other ways of coping may just be a permanent solution to a temporary problem.