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Why Are Teens Growing More Anxious?

Teen anxiety. That’s the subject of this week’s Good Faith episode. In it, David French and Curtis Chang speak to one of the foremost experts on the subject, Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute. Kara’s well-researched and empathetic insights are critical for all of us to help the teens in our lives navigate these challenging times.

Part of their conversation is excerpted below. If you have questions, observations, or ideas for future episodes, leave a comment below.

CC: Start us out with a sketch of how much of a problem of an issue teen anxiety is in society and in the church. 

How bad is it out there? 

Because, anecdotally, it feels really, really bad.

KP: Overall during the pandemic, anxiety has tripled, and depression has quadrupled across generations, according to CDC data. Keep in mind, you know, when the pandemic started, let’s just say early 2020, there was, we were already seeing an increase of stress and anxiety and depression, suicidal questions and tendencies. I think many of us were seeing a surge in 2018, 2019, the pandemic hits in 2020 through 2021, and continues on today. 

Anxiety has tripled, depression has quadrupled.

What’s interesting about young people is that they are particularly prone to experience mental health challenges, 18 to 24-year-olds, approximately half of them, 50% of them could be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and young females, even more particularly are navigating mental health.

We are helicopter parents who kind of swoop in, and try to protect our kids from pain. And as a result, they often don’t develop the muscles of resilience or what Angela Duckworth calls grit to really navigate these tough times. And so my good friend and colleague Scott Cormo – himself a parent of two young adults – says he simultaneously has two desires.

Number one, he wants to protect his kids from pain. Number two, he wants them to have the kind of character and growth that usually only comes from pain.

That’s exactly how I feel as a parent.

[This excerpt was lightly edited for clarity].

When asked about what to do if a person has a child who struggles with anxiety, Kara had some great suggestions:

Listen to all of this episode here.

Also, check out Redeeming Babel’s anxiety course if you have anxiety yourself…  as you watch your kids struggle with it!

Podcast Hosts: Curtis Chang and David French

Guest: Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute

Producer: Kris Carter

Image Credit: ndla.zendesk.com | License details Creator: Vicky Scott | Credit: Ikon Images

2 comments

  1. Kathryn says:

    This was a terrific listen. As a mother of three (G-16, G-13, and B-11) we have been walking this road for the past six years with my oldest and for the last few with my 13-year-old. Through this, we have established our “team” who has been absolutely critical, but I feel that we are incredibly lucky in that we started pre-pandemic. One of my biggest challenges, however, is that so much is secular and so I feel that I have to be the one to pull together what they are learning through therapy into the spectrum of faith. It is not easy. All of this to say, THANK YOU for the podcast and the work that you are doing in this space.

  2. I’m so grateful that my teens have somehow developed the resilience they’ll need to face anxiety as they grow up. I credit the community we’ve been a part of since before they were born for instilling this kind of resilience in them. I don’t see how anyone can face anxiety on their own and i would argue that participating in community is crucial for developing the resilience to live in a world that can only bring more anxiety into our lives.

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