According to a recent report by NBC News, America’s youngest generation is facing a serious mental health crisis, including anger, depression, and anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 5 American children ages 3 through 17, about 15 million, have a diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder in a given year. Only 20 percent of these children are ever diagnosed and receive treatment; 80 percent, about 12 million, are not receiving treatment. Recent research indicates that serious depression is worsening in teens, which can lead to anger management problems, violence, and suicide.
As a teenager, who hopes to grow up and have kids of my own one day, these statistics frighten me. I am concerned for the kids that will grow up in this country now and in the future. Almost every day we turn on the news and hear another story of violence and mass murder. We need to help change the direction this planet of ours is headed in before it is too late. As Gandhi said,
“If you want to effectuate peace, then start by educating the children.”
Youth suicide and depression
According to the Merrian-Webster dictionary, depression is marked the following:
- Difficulty thinking or focusing
- An increase or decrease in sleeping and eating
- Feelings of being alone
- Lack of energy, and
- Sometimes suicidal or homicidal tendencies.
There are many types of medications, therapies, and techniques to manage depression. But these superficial solutions do not help erase the cause, especially in this day and age, because depression, anxiety, and anger are such huge problems with youngsters.
Suicide is a real threat to kids as early as middle school. That’s not okay. Something must be done to help our youth.
Teaching yogic principles
We can help kids learn to deal with their emotions, to feel better about themselves and to feel love and inner-peace. We must reach them when they are young and teach them the “off the mat” yogic principles of giving gratitude and thinking well so that it becomes an automatic response to stress.
“You cannot always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.”–Wayne Dyer
If we can infuse these kids with yogic-tools that become second nature to them, then hopefully they will handle whatever life throws their way without solving the issue by shooting up movie theaters, concerts, or schools, hurting others, or hurting themselves. I know this is not the only answer, but it is a part of the answer, and I do not ever want what happened in Parkland to ever happen again.
Kids should not be afraid to go to school, and parents should not be afraid to send their kids to school.
It is more important than ever to teach kids the skills they need to cope with emotions in a better way so they can stop the negative loop in their head and begin focusing on the positive. The effects of living a healthy lifestyle in mind, body, and spirit, including Yoga, meditation, nutrition, positive thinking, and the ability to manage emotions, has been studied by doctors and scientists. Their conclusion is that there is a mind-body connection, and our thoughts have the ability to make us well or make us unwell. Science has shown that Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can assist in the healing process and that our minds can control our bodies. [See references and links below]
In order to help children grow up healthy and happy, we must reach them when they are young and teach them how to live a mindful life, how to better control their thoughts, and how to live in light.
I created Wuf Shanti, Yoga Dog for Kids to help young people learn how to live a yogic lifestyle. Wuf Shafti videos can be found on local PBS stations, on the Children’s TV Network in children’s hospitals across the country, and on the Wuf Shanti YouTube Channel. There is also a Yoga Fun Machine mindful mobile app. All of these tools help kids learn to practice Yoga, positive thinking, and meditation so that those tools become an automatic response to stress as they grow-up.
Learning to deal with life’s issues in a more productive way will hopefully help kids to be less depressed and anxious teens and happier peace-loving adults. Our curriculum includes a focus on healing, communication, diversity, kindness, gratitude, inclusion, and positive thinking.
By teaching kids to make a Yoga practice a part of their daily routine, even if it is just for 5-10 minutes each day, they will lead a much healthier lifestyle, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Positive effects of a balanced yogic-lifestyle include decreases in depression and anxiety, increased focus, learning, and creativity, reduction of illness, and increased feelings of compassion and empathy.
With all of these proven benefits, why isn’t everyone teaching their kids to meditate, do Yoga, and eat, sleep, and think well
Mace, C. (2008). Mindfulness and mental health: Therapy, theory, and science. New York: Routledge.
Schreiner, I., Malcolm, J.P. (2008). The benefits of mindfulness meditation: Changes in emotional states of depression, anxiety, and stress. Behaviour Change, 25(3), 156-168.
Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Adkins, A. D., Wahler, R. G., Sabaawi, M., et al. (2007). Individuals with mental illness can control their aggressive behavior through mindfulness training. Behavior modification, 31(3), 313-328.
Bortz, J. J., Summers, J. D., Pipe, T. B. (2007). Mindfulness meditation: evidence of decreased rumination as a mechanism of symptom reduction.Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 19(2), 217-218.