By Karam Singh Sethi
April 19, 2014
April is National Stress Awareness month.
On April 2, Ivan Lopez killed four soldiers and wounded 16 others in Fort Hood, Texas. On April 9, Alex Hribal stabbed 22 people at his high school in Murrysville, Penn. On April 13, an unknown gunman killed three people at two Jewish facilities near Kansas City. On April 13, Megan Huntsman was accused of killing seven babies after police found decaying human remains in her Utah home. On April 15, Boston commemorates one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three and injured 264.
Feel less stressed?
The 24-hour news cycle has plastered gruesome headlines on TVs, websites and newspapers during April, raising social anxiety.
It’s difficult to explain why so many Americans are dying; grieving families across the country look for explanations, but few find results. Answers become even more vague when put in an international context.
Ukrainian youth pick up arms to maintain sovereignty from Russian incursion. Syrian families escape a 3-year civil war, traveling in hoards to Lebanon. In the DRC, women fight against rape impunity as U.N. peacekeepers prepare to depart. By no means are these international events basic, but the actors are definable and the motives clear.
So, why is evil more difficult to define in the U.S.?
Crisis in the global superpower is not more nuanced but more self-induced; demons are internalized and less tangible. One explanation connecting recent American horror stories is stress.
The average stress level for teens is 5.8 out of 10, alarmingly higher than the 5.1 average recorded for adults. Of the 1,018 teens surveyed 31 percent report feeling “overwhelmed,” 30 percent feel “depressed or sad,” and 36 percent feel “fatigued or tired”.
Since 2007, the annual APA study has shown ingrained stress in American culture, but never has anxiety in teenagers been so high.
“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health,” says APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD.
If the culture of American stress persists in youth, senseless violence is bound to increase. Besides increased sleep, exercise, and healthier eating, the APA suggests a new remedy.
Parents should encourage teens to, “seek support from health care professionals like psychologists to help develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress sooner rather than later.” This means overcoming societal stigmas and utilizing therapy at a young age.
Stress may be the most tangible answer for the gruesome month of April and signal a dyer need to manage Americans’ mental wellbeing at an early age. Taking the rest of the month to reflect on mental health, rather than fixate on headlines, will not only help individuals, but also reduce American stress culture.