Mental Health

Now Is Our Time to Tackle Teen Mental Health Crisis

Delaney Ruston, MD
April 26, 2022

If there was ever a time to get our communities together, our parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, and particularly our youth — to talk about ways we can help our young people with their mental health, it is now.

You may have seen this weekend’s New York Times article and video about teens and mental health, ‘It’s Life or Death’: The Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens.

There is no denying the measurable fact that since 2011, the rates of mental health problems —  depression, suicide, and others, along with loneliness —  have been going up.

Eighteen years ago, I made my first film on mental health. And from day one, I have been committed to two things:  

  1. Ensuring the films are not full of sensational scare tactics, but instead, making movies full of solutions and hope. 
  2. Creating films for school and community screenings to bring people together to inspire even more change. Our society has a long history of keeping families in silos — and that is particularly true when it comes to discussing the social, emotional, and behavioral challenges our kids may face. For me, community screenings have been a key part of fighting against the isolation families face. 

I truly believe that what is better than A.I.,  is A. Us. When we act as a vulnerable village — willing to talk about what is actually happening, our pain, and what needs to get done — we get a lot further. 

Of all the films I have done related to mental health, Screenagers Next Chapter is the right tool right now to help our youth with their mental health. Schools everywhere talk with me about how the pandemic has set students back emotionally and socially. Just this month, I saw two middle schoolers in my clinic who have been home for months due to the anxiety they feel at school. Screenagers Next Chapter explores anxiety and solutions to it, along with many other topics.

Mental health issues affect all of our teens. Even those who may be doing well know people who are not doing well. For the past ten years, every teen I’ve met knows someone in their circle (home, friends, etc.) who is dealing with some emotional pain and experiencing some anxiety or depression. So often, our kids feel incredible stress not knowing what to do or say to help friends who are going through something like this. Again, Screenagers Next Chapter provides strategies for this exact situation. 

The other thing the film does is give our teens hope. 

While we must talk about the rise in mental health problems, teens tell me how hearing more and more bad news makes them feel distressed. They are overwhelmed by the media saturation of harsh realities like the pandemic, climate change, cruelty, war, racism, and yes, the rise of mental health problems. 

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This past week, I spoke with a young man in college who needed to call 911 because his friend was actively suicidal. In addition, that same week, a 12th grader died during school hours at the high school I went to growing up. The kids witnessed it, and the community is devastated. 

In the face of all this, giving our teens hope and steps for action is key. When teens watch Screenagers Next Chapter, many tell me how the film does that. Recently, one teen told me “so many other shows that deal with mental health topics are so triggering, but yours is not at all. It is really relatable and helpful.” 

Not only do I hear from teens about how much they like seeing the stories and science in the film, but they say they appreciate how we address screen time issues. 

When we surveyed teens, over 90% said they felt more inclined to ask for help after seeing the movie if they were facing a mental health challenge. This fills my heart. 

In addition, a similar percentage of teens report that they learned new skills for handling stress, anxious and sad feelings. 

The intense truth is now, in our tech revolution, teens can and do see so much online — unhealthy coping skills, triggering shows, negative influencers, and the list goes on. We have to share healthy strategies with our teens, and we must create settings to discuss these things.

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May is mental health awareness month, and it is the perfect time for communities to use Screenagers Next Chapter to reach kids with hope and solutions. Screenings happen in classes at school, at night in the gym for parents and youth, in community centers, at places of worship, during lunchtime at companies, and more.

We have created a very detailed moderator’s guide so that anyone can help moderate a discussion after the movie. And the resources on our website, like the 300 plus Tech Talk Tuesday blog posts I’ve written, the 17 Screenagers Podcasts episodes, the resource pages, and more, help communities continue the conversation far after the film screening.

Questions To Start A Conversation:

  1. What do you think about the power of film to get people talking together about solutions?
  2. Has your school shown the Screenagers Next Chapter during class time or during an assembly? 
  3. Have any of your friends felt overwhelmed by all the recent press about the mental health crisis?
  4. Do you know a friend who is overwhelmed with anxiety or depression? If so, is there any way you can reach out to them to talk about it? Do you want to take a look together at the resources on the Screenagers website?
  5. Do you know the line between normal stress and more concerning anxiety?
  6. Do certain classes or teachers ever talk about mental health issues in a way you like? If so, what is it you like about it?

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Mental Health

Now Is Our Time to Tackle Teen Mental Health Crisis

Delaney Ruston, MD
April 26, 2022

If there was ever a time to get our communities together, our parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, and particularly our youth — to talk about ways we can help our young people with their mental health, it is now.

You may have seen this weekend’s New York Times article and video about teens and mental health, ‘It’s Life or Death’: The Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens.

There is no denying the measurable fact that since 2011, the rates of mental health problems —  depression, suicide, and others, along with loneliness —  have been going up.

Eighteen years ago, I made my first film on mental health. And from day one, I have been committed to two things:  

  1. Ensuring the films are not full of sensational scare tactics, but instead, making movies full of solutions and hope. 
  2. Creating films for school and community screenings to bring people together to inspire even more change. Our society has a long history of keeping families in silos — and that is particularly true when it comes to discussing the social, emotional, and behavioral challenges our kids may face. For me, community screenings have been a key part of fighting against the isolation families face. 

I truly believe that what is better than A.I.,  is A. Us. When we act as a vulnerable village — willing to talk about what is actually happening, our pain, and what needs to get done — we get a lot further. 

Of all the films I have done related to mental health, Screenagers Next Chapter is the right tool right now to help our youth with their mental health. Schools everywhere talk with me about how the pandemic has set students back emotionally and socially. Just this month, I saw two middle schoolers in my clinic who have been home for months due to the anxiety they feel at school. Screenagers Next Chapter explores anxiety and solutions to it, along with many other topics.

Mental health issues affect all of our teens. Even those who may be doing well know people who are not doing well. For the past ten years, every teen I’ve met knows someone in their circle (home, friends, etc.) who is dealing with some emotional pain and experiencing some anxiety or depression. So often, our kids feel incredible stress not knowing what to do or say to help friends who are going through something like this. Again, Screenagers Next Chapter provides strategies for this exact situation. 

The other thing the film does is give our teens hope. 

While we must talk about the rise in mental health problems, teens tell me how hearing more and more bad news makes them feel distressed. They are overwhelmed by the media saturation of harsh realities like the pandemic, climate change, cruelty, war, racism, and yes, the rise of mental health problems. 

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for more like this, DR. DELANEY RUSTON'S NEW BOOK, PARENTING IN THE SCREEN AGE, IS THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE FOR TODAY’S PARENTS. WITH INSIGHTS ON SCREEN TIME FROM RESEARCHERS, INPUT FROM KIDS & TEENS, THIS BOOK IS PACKED WITH SOLUTIONS FOR HOW TO START AND SUSTAIN PRODUCTIVE FAMILY TALKS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY AND IT’S IMPACT ON OUR MENTAL WELLBEING.  

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