Stress and Pressure Affecting our Youth

Race to Nowhere

This article was written by Joan Janusz, a member of the Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use.  

 “I just can’t get it all done—play practice, homework, job, soccer practice”.  We live in a high stress world and our youth are not immune.  They face many pressures; from parents, teachers, coaches, employers, peers, their own expectations.  Unfortunately adults aren’t always good role models or available to help learn to balance their many roles. 

The Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use (MTF) recognizes the issue of youth stress.  It can lead to substance use, thinking it will relieve stress.  One of the goals of our committee focused on youth, schools, and parents is to dialog with youth groups to gain insight about concerns.  In May, small group discussions were held with RALIE youth at Northfield Senior High.  Meaningful conversation occurred; youth identified a myriad of things they would like adults to understand about being a teen today; their perspective on teen drinking and drug use and suggestions for reducing chemical use; and other teen issues adults should be concerned about.

There were many comments made by RALIE youth about stress and pressure:  “it’s hard to balance everything”; “adults have too high of expectations that puts too much pressure on kids”;  “too much pressure to be ‘the best’-excel at everything”; “there is never enough time in the day”; “stress with sports, finals, jobs, volunteer work, ACT, college future. No help to balance. Just expected to figure it out on your own”; “Lots of pressure ‘to be amazing’, be involved in everything.”

Many of these pressures and stresses are brought to life in the film, “Race to Nowhere”.  It embarks on a deeply personal inquiry into the hectic lives of too many of our middle and high school youth.  Rushing from school to sports to community work to homework and relying increasingly on stimulants and sleep deprivation, these kids pressured lives lead to consequences ranging from depression to eating disorders to giving up and even tragically in one case, suicide.  The MTF has purchased the film “Race to Nowhere”; it will be “housed” at the Northfield Senior High. Watch for a community showing sometime in the fall. 

While this film and the accompanying discussion on how things must and can change is mostly a message to adults, it is recognized that youth can tell adults what we need to know to create the most supportive environments possible for young people to decrease pressure and stress.  Last summer Healthy Community Initiative and the MTF sponsored a video contest on bullying.  The entries were amazing, creative, and instructive.  The second annual video contest is announced focusing on “Youth Under Pressure”.  Youth are encouraged to produce a video telling us what is creating stress and pressure in your life, how you cope, how you find balance, and what would help you lessen pressure and stress.  Grab your friends, your video camera and tell your story, share your ideas, your solutions.  Two $200 prizes will be awarded.  Go to more information and to download forms.  PSA videos need to be created and submitted by August 17, 2012.  But remember, have fun—no stress involved!