Teen Panel addresses stress and anxiety

| 26/05/2019
CNS Local Life
Teen panellists with government officials

(CNS Local Life): This year’s Teen Panel, held 16 May and organised by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for Child Month, discussed how to cope with stress while commenting on its causes. The event, at the George Town Town Hall, was an opportunity for high school students to air their views while giving personal insight and advice on “Navigating Stress and Anxiety during Adolescence.”

The eight panellists were Hope Russell (Cayman Islands Further Education Centre), Kristin Jackson (Clifton Hunter High School), Cristin Jackson (Cayman International School), Alia Smith (CIS), Alexander Heaver-Wren (Cayman Prep & High School), Naja Beach (John Gray High School), Haylie Tibbitts (Layman E. Scott High School) and Lizhaiderine Smith (Wesleyan Christian Academy).

About 80 parents, teachers, students, school counselors and child welfare providers attended the forum, moderated by Zoe Conolly Basdeo of the Alex Panton Foundation. She asked a series of questions, “designed to elicit genuine responses and offer up real-life solutions”, stated a press release.

A key stressor identified in students’ lives, irrespective of school, was exams. The majority of panellists said that the amount of subjects taught; the expectation of keeping up with extracurricular commitments; the sheer number of tests; and the expectation of their parents, teachers, colleges and, ultimately, themselves was sometimes worryingly high.

Panellists suggested coping mechanisms which helped them deal with exam-related stress. These included students taking part in an activity they enjoy, pacing themselves to ensure they are adequately prepared and talking to their school counsellor or parents, the release said.

Audience and panellists also took part in a stress-relief breathing exercise demonstrated by DCFS staff.

The moderator’s follow-up questions included whether stigma plays a role in how teens deal with anxiety and/or stress, why stress and anxiety are prevalent among young people and the impact they have on mood/physical health.

Conolly Basdeo’s final question was “What can the community and professionals do to help teenagers with stress and anxiety?” In varying ways, panellists said that they were living in very different times from those their parents had experienced growing up. Parents and even the teens’ peers were asked not to be too quick to judge. Several panellists agreed that social media use locally was less about what people wanted to share with their friends than about peers looking for you to say something or look a certain way so that they could criticise you.

The event’s lead organiser, DCFS social worker Sherine Barnes, said, “Youth-related services and child welfare agencies are well aware that self-harm and emotional wellbeing issues have never been more prevalent among youth. Teen Panel is a tangible way that teens themselves can address those issues and perhaps offer insights which adults may not grasp.”

Ministry of Community Affairs Chief Officer Teresa Echenique commended the teenagers’ willingness to speak up. “Our teen panellists were amazing,” she said after the audience’s standing ovation. “I strongly doubt if many of us adults here tonight can remember being quite that articulate and that poised at their age.”

Young people suffering from overwhelming stress and anxiety can call the Kids Helpline, run by the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, at 649-KIDS (5437), for free and confidential advice or the Department of Children and Family Services at 949-0902.

The Alex Panton Foundation runs a weekly mental health peer-led support group for young adults; for more information, email info@alexpantonfoundation.ky

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Category: High School, Schools

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