Earlier this year, one of my most spirited and capable friends sat with me and wept. She is the mother of two and has a grounded, lovely husband. But their lives were turned upside down when their nine-year-old daughter slowly developed an anxiety disorder. Asha is in every other way a typical nine-year-old. She gets good school reports, she does lots of sport and she is pretty talented at art. Her anxiety manifested in violent tantrums, a refusal to leave the house and panic attacks. It left her family isolated at home and desperate.
We decided that the best course of action was to research the hell out of anxiety and then attack it. We went about accessing resources and speaking to people who could possibly help. We found that the most helpful allies were a friend who is a paediatric nurse, Asha’s school psychologist and teacher colleagues. However, along the way, we gathered a lot of resources. We think they are worth sharing.
So, this week’s blog is about providing information and resources. Australian schools are reporting anxiety as an increasing problem. It is difficult to see students in the sort of pain that anxiety creates.
There is a degree of intolerance towards people who suffer from anxiety. It is borne of the belief that if you just pull yourself together everything will be fine. It is often viewed as weakness. Fortunately, Australians have largely moved beyond that belief with depression. Hopefully, with more information and exposure, we can be more understanding and compassionate to those suffering from anxiety.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, the condition is incredibly difficult to explain to someone else. It doesn’t make sense to people. It is particularly hard for a child, especially when an adult says, “What have you got to be anxious about?” Because that’s just the point… There is nothing obvious.
A child with an anxiety condition can be affected by any of the following symptoms:
Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophising, or obsessive thinking
Behavioural: avoidance of social situations, school refusal, tantrums, outbursts that can be violent verbally or physically
We all feel anxious at some time. It is biologically designed fear that alerts us to trouble and helps us avoid or escape it. That sort of anxiety need only be identified, discussed and then accepted as normal. The problem for someone who has an anxiety disorder is that there is no obvious threat, the duration of the feelings is extended and it is debilitating.
There is also a difference between stress and anxiety. We feel stress around events or relationships in our lives, but when the stress is removed, the stress dissipates. That isn’t the case with an anxiety disorder. The anxiety continues to impact on a person’s life regardless of external influences. For some children, anxiety can be so serious that they are unable to attend school. This is no longer unusual in Australia.
The following statistics about young people are from Beyond Blue.
- One in six young Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition
- One in four young Australians currently has a mental health condition
- Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians and accounts for the deaths of more young people than car accidents
- Evidence suggests three in four adult mental health conditions emerge by age 24, and half by age 14
- Young people are most concerned about coping with stress, school or study problems and body image in that order
- Young people see mental health as a more important issue than things such as the environment, bullying, education and employment
- A quarter of young Australians say they are unhappy with their lives
Suddenly it is obvious why the government is spending so much money on positive wellbeing programs and advertising awareness.
So what causes an anxiety disorder?
It’s a mix of things. It can be a combination of:
- Stressful events and situations
- Biochemical make-up
- Stressful environments
Living with someone who has an anxiety disorder is exhausting. It is unrelenting, unpredictable and isolating. It can also be embarrassing. It isn’t unusual for parents to lose their temper and want their child to ‘snap out of it’. It’s completely understandable, but never helpful. It isn’t unusual for parents to want to give the problem to the school, understandable, and yes families and schools can work together, but on-going issues like anxiety really require the assistance of an external agency.
The following resources are for parents who have children who suffer from anxiety. There are activities, articles and specialist organisations that can help. Please feel free to share them far and wide. If you have any great resources, make sure you share them too.
Next week’s blog will address why anxiety is on the rise in Australian teenagers.
Resources for Parents with Teens Who Suffer Anxiety
1. Support from External Agencies
Children & Anxiety : Information including courses for parents of children with anxiety
Address: Lotteries House, 6 Civic Boulevard, Rockingham WA
Telephone: (08) 9529 4100
Family Mental Health Support Service
Address: Mercy Hospital, Thirlmere Road, Mount Lawley WA
Telephone: (08) 9370 9222 or 1800 004 404 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Level 1 Wesley Central, Corner of Market St and Cantonment St, Fremantle- right near the Fremantle Train Station!
Postal address: PO Box 1240, Fremantle 6959.
Phone: 9335 6333
2. Articles on Anxiety
9 Things Every Parent With An Anxious Child Should Try
10 Tips for Correcting Your Anxious Child
Anxiety in Kids: How to Turn it Around and Protect Them For Life
I am Anxiety from Youtube
3. Activities for Your Anxious Teen
Brave Program for Teens
The BRAVE Program is an interactive, online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety. The programs are free, and provide ways for children and teenagers to better cope with their worries. There are also programs for parents. https://brave4you.psy.uq.edu.au/teen-program
Smiling Mind app
Smiling Mind is a unique web and free App-based program developed by a team of psychologists with expertise in youth and adolescent therapy, Mindfulness Meditation and web-based wellness programs. Smiling Mind will assist in improving the lives of young Australians.
MindShift is an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. It can help you change how you think about anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxiety, you can make an important shift and face it.
Headspace Meditation app
This mobile app makes practicing simple mindfulness techniques easy, from a variety of systems – helping fulfil our mission of a healthier, happier world, one mobile device at a time!
Be-YOU-tiful is created for female teenagers (14-17 years old) and female young adults (18-19 years old) living in Australia. It is designed to help you beat perfectionism or stress, improve your state of mind, well-being, and be a happier YOU!
Quick relaxation Techniques
Mindfulness in Every Day
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Linda Stade has worked in various teaching and management roles in education for twenty-five years. She has worked in government and private schools, country and city, single-sex and co-ed. Currently, she is the Research Officer at Santa Maria College, Western Australia.