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From cyberbullying to grade worries, many kids are feeling adult-sized pressures

STAFF • Dec 28, 2019 at 9:00 AM

In years past, childhood may have been a time largely free of adult-sized stressors, but not now. From cyberbullying to worries over paying for college, many children and teens today are as stressed out as their parents, and this stress is taking a toll.

Eye-opening numbers

Take a look at some statistics school counselors recently gave to Kingsport Board of Education members:

Of Kingsport’s 7,450 city school students last year:

• 602 were referred to outpatient mental health services.

• 381 incidents of student self-harm were addressed.

• 249 referrals were made to the Department of Children’s Services.

• 193 student suicidal ideas or threats were sent for evaluation.

• 177 student ideas regarding harming others were evaluated.

• 66 student mobile crisis referrals were made.

“Sobering” was BOE President Carrie Upshaw’s description of these numbers.

Why so stressed?

The Times News talked to students and to school counselors in the region to find out what’s behind teen stress. They said some teens are just dealing with the typical pressures of adolescence: balancing school, extracurricular activities and maybe a job.

Other teens report feeling isolated because of social media, some are dealing with cyberbullying, and some are coping with an unstable home life.

The opioid epidemic

A Hawkins County counselor pointed out that the opioid epidemic hit the region around 2011, and that led to an unprecedented number of children being born addicted to drugs. As these children have entered their school years, teachers and school administrators are seeing an increase in the number of students exhibiting behavioral issues and needing more academic and social support.

“We have a lot of families that are stressed,” said Sullivan County Director of Schools David Cox. “For whatever reason, parents are not always raising their children. We have grandparents and great-grandparents raising children, so dynamics have changed.”

Economic hardships also weigh heavily on children. Kim Oaks-Blair, a counselor at Kingsport’s Sevier Middle School, said school counselors see students who had to sleep the night before on a cold floor, have no electricity or running water at home or are living doubled up with other family members of friends.

With mental health issues now showing up in the student population as early as the elementary years, school officials are looking for ways to address the stress issue before it gets out of hand.

Tomorrow we look at de-stressing children and teens.