We can all agree that being a teenager has always been tough. Hormones are changing, social anxiety has kicked into high gear, and peer pressure is exerting itself from every angle.
But teens today are facing unique challenges. From social media addiction to social isolation, vaping to the opioid epidemic, cyberbullying to gun violence, Gen Z-ers are coming of age in a whole new world. Most concerning, it’s showing up in their mental health.
While today’s teens are the most “connected” generation, research also shows that they’re the loneliest. From 2000 to 2015, the percentage of teens who hang out with their friends almost every day has decreased by over 40 percent. In fact, it’s been discovered that loneliness is as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it more lethal than the obesity epidemic.
But what makes the mental health crisis for adolescents so acute? How are the problems facing today’s young people different than those facing previous generations? And most importantly: what can we do about it?
These were the questions we sought to answer at our 3rd annual conference Mental Health and Youth: Breakdown or Breakthrough.
The Day’s Key Topics
The conference was held at the TimesCenter in New York City and featured a first look at the documentary Weight of Gold, with special guests world champion swimmer Michael Phelps and figure skater Sasha Cohen. The conference also brought together a wide-range of panelists: clinicians from NYU, Columbia, and Harvard as well as technology thought leaders, authors and publishers, and politicians.
Panels included topics such as:
- Early Onset Adulthood
- Connected but Alone: Coming of Age in the Social Media Era
- Fireside Chat: A Conversation with World Champion Swimmer, Michael Phelps
- Cyberbullying to Gun Violence: How Teens are Coping with Trauma
- Ready to Leave Home and Face the World
- The Weight of Gold: How World-Class Athletes and High-Performance Individuals Connect To Their Mental Health
The event also served as an opportunity to highlight the dire need of teens underserved by the mental health community. As many as half of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by age 14, but only a fraction of those kids and teens receive care.
With the hope of helping to mitigate it, we announced a partnership with Give an Hour, a non-profit mental health organization that provides free access to care for populations that desperately need it. Together, our organizations are offering 500 months of free therapy to teens in need of behavioral health care.
Announcing Talkspace for Teens
And, finally, Talkspace announced that it will be providing services, with parental consent, to teens between the ages of 13-17. Now, with Talkspace for Teens, young people can receive the benefits of professional counseling without having to divulge sensitive problems to teachers or friends.
Receiving mental health care will no longer necessitate leaving school early or missing activities — Talkspace for Teens provides adolescents a new kind of space online, one where they can express themselves authentically, securely, and confidentially.
The conference was a day to discuss some of the most pressing questions facing young people — a fascinating, deep dive into the relationships between mental health, social media, substance abuse, and gun control. Our hope is that it provided some solutions as well.