JOLIET, IL – Walk into a youth group, a school classroom, or a sporting event and you will likely see normal, everyday health teens.  You can easily count 10 teens who seem reasonably healthy on the outside.  But according to a new study, 7 of those teens could struggle with mental health.  According to the study, commissioned by National 4-H Council, 7 in 10 teens struggle with mental health. 

“There are so many people that look like they have it all together when in reality they're begging for someone to help them navigate through their emotions” says Jamita Brown, 4-H youth development educator at the University of Illinois Extension Office in Will County, “Youth see the state that our world is in, but often times we don't give them the opportunity to speak about what's going on, how they feel about it, and what they feel like they can control and what they can’t.  This study illustrates this point.”

According to the study, things aren’t getting better.  Over half of all those surveyed said that they have increasing feelings of loneliness, with 64% of teens believing that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the mental health of their generation. 

What is making teens stressed?  According to the study, 71% of youth say schoolwork, 67% feel pressure to keep feelings to themselves, and 65% say an uncertain future makes them feel anxious or depressed. 

“It is really important that we support teens and foster positive youth and adult partnerships” says Anthony Warmack, 4-H program coordinator in Will County, “These positive relationships are a huge factor in helping teens feel comfortable enough to share their feelings and talk about their Mental Health.  This is one of the factors that makes the 4-H program so important.”

Utilizing a grant from Walmart facilitated by the State 4-H Office, Jamita Brown and the University of Illinois Extension office in Will County are creating “Healthy Habits” boxes which will include activities and accompanying curriculum which will focus on physical, nutritional, and mental wellness:

“Our Healthy Habits curriculum will be a 6-week activity box with lessons for each of the areas including keeping our bodies in motion, the importance of water, mindfulness activities, growing fresh foods, and a gratitude/wellness journal” says Brown, “We should be releasing them for August and we will have 50 available so be on the lookout for sign-up information.  There will also be a website where youth can navigate through the lessons.”

Sign-up for the boxes will be open to youth in Will, Grundy, & Kankakee counties and more information will be posted onto the Extension Unit website soon at www.extension.illinois.edu/gkw.

For families, teachers, and anyone who interacts with teens, Brown has this advice:  “It's important that we not ignore youth but rather ask them questions about the state of their emotions to help promote a better mental wellbeing.  It's 100% okay to not always feel okay, but we have to address it in order to help.”

To read the full study, visit:  https://4-h.org/media/new-survey-finds-7-in-10-teens-are-struggling-with-mental-health/. For more information about Extension/4-H programing (including information on how Extension can help support your school or community group), contact Jamita Brown at jamitab@illinois.edu

For resources on teens and mental health, visit:

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Source: Jamita Brown, Youth Development Educator, Will – jamitab@illinois.edu

News Writer:  Anthony Warmack, 4-H Program Coordinator, Will – warmacka@illinois.edu