Avera Medical Minute: Kids and Anxiety

 students dealing with anxiety
students dealing with anxiety (KSFY)
Published: Dec. 3, 2019 at 4:20 PM CST
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Would you be able to spot if your child is dealing with increasing amounts of anxiety? The symptoms may be different than you think.

One of the major indicators that something is wrong, is a physical complaint, according to Avera Vice President of Behavioral Health Services Dr. Matthew Stanley. "They don't tell you it's anxiety, they just know they have an upset stomach, and it waxes and wanes depending on what's going on in their life, what's going on at school," said Dr. Stanley.

Other common symptoms include frequent headaches or a change in appetite.

The sources of stress and anxiety can come from pressure to belong.

"Sometimes fitting in can be making the basketball team, being able to participate in another extracurricular activity. That's how you identify yourself and create your own group of peers," said Dr. Stanley.

Another new issue for this generation is social media, according to the director of counseling at Bishop O' Gorman Catholic Schools, Kelly Jones. "It's so instant with snapchat, where students know if they're being left out at the moment. So if I get a picture or a snap from somebody and all my friends are there at a party or someone's house or out to eat, and I'm not there, how that makes me feel, right now," said Jones.

"There is not a study I've seen that indicated social media is good for depression or suicidal ideation, most prove the opposite. It is detrimental," said Dr. Stanley.

From elementary through graduation, a school counselor can be a starting point for help. Morgan Robey is a counselor at O' Gorman High School. "We have to identify, 'Where is this coming from?' Then we explore that process, and try to understand what it is that we're getting stuck on," said Robey.

Talking through concerns, possible solutions and finding tools to manage anxiety can begin a path to feeling better.

"Sometimes it's as simple as helping them find an intentional safe space to have a reset in their day so that they can help themselves come down from those emotions," said Robey.

A mindfulness room at O' Gorman High School has been created where students have a safe place to go, just to have a reset in the day if they need it. The quiet, dimly-lit room has a soft chair for a retreat. It also has a desk where a student can journal, or de-stress with an adult coloring book. Instead of previous locations like taking refuge in a bathroom stall or locker room, a student can reset in the quiet and then go back to class.

The best scenario is a team effort: friends, family, school counselors and additional behavioral health assistance working together.

"If you take it step by step and look at it in pieces instead of the whole picture that can be overwhelming at times, that really does help," said Jones.

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