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This is where teens are turning to talk about stress

Last Modified: 9/11/2019

An alarming number of teenagers are reporting symptoms of stress, anxiety and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts. Tammy Toscos, research manager, Informatics, Parkview Research Center and Connie Kerrigan, RN, BSN, director of outreach, Parkview Behavioral Health share what the research tells us about where teens are seeking help for depression, and the life-saving training available now. 

Are teens depressed?

When 3,000 local youths were asked if stress was starting to interfere with their daily activities, over 1/3 reported feeling sadness and hopelessness every day for two weeks or more. This population stopped doing their usual activities – the things they love to do.

We find that only 30 percent of teens are getting the help they need, so out of ten kids, seven of them are living with depression and not getting care. This group is most at risk for suicidal ideation, difficulty with relationships at school, difficulty in school and not getting the help they need.

Barriers to care

There are several known barriers to getting mental health care:

  • No. 1 is likely the stigma
  • A perceived issue of cost. People aren’t aware of the inexpensive resources out there.
  • A lack of information about how to help youth
  • A lack of trust with healthcare, parents or educators
The role of technology

The question then became, would youth use technology to get help? In an effort to explore this question, three years ago, The Parkview Research team, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, began looking into the topic. Since youth are using technology, how can we use it for good, knowing it’s a double-edged sword.

The study focused on telemental health, which is a broad collection of technologies, ranging from texting, to websites, to anonymous online chatting, all designed or used to provide mental health care or information about mental health.

The study surveyed roughly 3,000 local youth and found that:

  • Of high school students, 1/3 had moderate to severe anxiety
  • Of high school students, almost ¼ had moderate to severe depression
  • Of high school students, 15 percent had considered suicide in the last 12 months
  • Of college students, almost 50 percent had moderate to severe anxiety
Where are they turning for help?

When asked who these students trusted when they needed help, the study found that:  

  • 70% turned to a friend or peer for help
  • 45% go to a parent or guardian
  • Almost 20% of kids had no one to talk to about stress or problems

When asked about their preferred method of communication when they want to talk about stress or problems, the study showed that:

Of high school students,

  • 54% preferred face-to-face communication
  • 24% preferred text or online chat

Of college students,

  • 68.3% wanted in person, face-to-face communication
  • 16.8% wanted text or online chat
  • 9.2% preferred a phone call

This tells us that, despite all of the great technology, we’re still human and we need connection. Now the question becomes how we can utilize the technology to facilitate that connection and provide helpful resources.

When asked about social media, the study found that the division was almost even between those who found it helpful and those who saw it as a source of stress. So, we know there’s something good in it but we have to learn how to step away when technology creates stress.

Key takeaways

Three years into this project, there are a handful of big takeaways for teens, parents and educators:

1. Our youth are not aware of resources that are available to them for combating depression and anxiety.

2. Use is based on individual preference and context. If a teen has a high level of anxiety or depression, they are more inclined to benefit from the resources. High risk groups find technologies more appealing and have used them.

3. Peers and friends are who youth are turning to, so we need to focus on providing them tools to interact with those in emotional distress.

4. Both technology and people are important in providing support. The people piece, that connection, is super important. The technology is just the tool for making that connection.


As a result of the study’s findings, and through grant money and funds from the Lutheran Foundation and Parkview Health, these groups were able to bring lifesaving techniques to the community with QPR training. In just two hours, participants receive formal training to help them understand what to do when someone is suicidal. QPR is CPR for the brain that is in crisis. It is instruction on how to Question, Persuade people to get help, and Refer them to resources.

This training is available throughout northeast Indiana and at every Parkview hospital. To date, more than 80 instructors have trained 3,700 individuals, with a goal of training 10,000 by the end of 2019.

This is so important, because the more people who are trained in QPR, the more likely someone will intervene and respond. Every family should have at least one person trained, or one in every four adults in a community should have the training.

For more information or to schedule a group training with ten or more individuals, contact Jane Holliday at (260) 373-7697. If you or someone you know needs help, call the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine at (260) 373-7500 or (800) 284-8439, anytime 24 hours a day.


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