Content warning—this article discusses suicide and suicidal feelings.
Teens in the US are suffering. The reasons are many, including the lingering effects of the pandemic, fears stemming from unrelenting school shootings, and anguish about climate change. As a result, suicide rates have skyrocketed over the last decade, with suicide now the second leading cause of death among teens.
What can we do to support vulnerable youth who lack the skills needed to manage unremitting depression and anxiety?
Luckily, there is something that can help. Self-compassion—learning how to be kind and supportive to oneself—has been shown to protect teens from the adverse effects of social media, depression, stress, social anxiety, cyberbullying, early life trauma, loneliness, perfectionism, and other threats to their well-being. Self-compassion is not a panacea, but it can help to mitigate some of the challenges that teens face daily in a world that is often divisive, violent, and angry.
In two separate meta-analyses—statistical summaries of multiple studies—self-compassionate teens were found less likely to be depressed, anxious, or stressed. They are also less likely to self-injure, get depressed when stressed, develop mental health problems as they get older when they have low self-esteem, or develop PTSD because of a