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Anxiety is skyrocketing in teens, so how can we help?

Hollie Strano speaks with middle school students from Berea-Midpark to learn more

There's no denying it. More and more kids of all ages are experiencing anxiety.

Dr. Lisa Damour, Clinical Psychologist and Director for Laurel's Center for Research on Girls told WKYC's Hollie Strano that it's an issue that particularly impacts girls.

"What we’ve known for a long time is that anxiety disproportionately affects girls, the most recent literature tells us that girls at about at a rate of 31% are reporting symptoms of anxiety to a rate of 13% of boys," she said.

She's written a new book on the subject, "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls" and says the increase in rates of both boys and girls experiencing anxiety is partly due to expectations we're placing on kids. 

"We are asking more of kids than we ever have before. In many ways, college has come to high school, high school has come to middle school, and so the demands we are placing is different than in previous generations," she said.

Many school districts across the country are now grappling with ways they can try to help students and parents deal with mental health. The Berea City School District is one local school system taking action, by offering a screening of the documentary "Angst" to students and parents last month. 

Hollie visited Berea-Midpark middle school one week after that screening to speak directly with some students about their own experiences with anxiety.

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"I don’t want to mess up, and just standing out is a big thing for me," seventh grader Stephanie Lesnick told Hollie, while sixth grader Madison Teraschke admitted that anxiety and bullying often go hand in hand.

"People at our school make fun of my friends and they can’t fight back because they have anxiety... and I’m scared to stick up for them," she said.

Stephanie's older sister Paige is an eighth grader at the school and told Hollie that therapy has helped her cope with anxiety, saying, "I’m just glad I have someone I can talk to who understands and who can tell me what to do."

While speaking to the girls, Hollie realized that some of her own anxiety dates back to her grade-school years. 

"I used to throw up before I got on the bus, every morning for probably a month in kindergarten, and I remember that," she said.

Hollie opened up the conversation to the girls' mothers Kristi Terashcke and Nicole Lesnick, who both attended the screening of "Angst" and admitted that though they're already proactive about helping their daughters, they learned important takeaways from the film.

"I know seeing the movie has helped me re-frame some of the ways I talk to my children, and I just want to be there to support them but also give them that push when I know its something that they can do," Nicole told Hollie.

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And Kristi shared that her biggest takeaway was that a foundation of love and support can go a long way.

"You might not always make the right decision as a parent but just knowing that you love them and support them [is huge]," she said.

You can watch the full interview with Dr. Damour below:

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