Pandemic worsens depression, anxiety in teens.
Mood Prep 101: A Parent’s
Guide to Preventing
Depression and Anxiety in
BY CAROL LANDAU, PHD
Oxford University Press, 2020
Long before COVID-19, the
US was dealing with an
unaddressed public health
crisis: an epidemic of adolescent psychiatric problems.
A clinical psychologist who has been treating high school and college students for more than 30 years, Carol Landau ’70, P’09, PhD, began thinking about ways families could head off the depression and anxiety she saw so often in her practice. The result is her recent
book, Mood Prep 101.
Landau, a clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior and of medicine, says while there’s no “formula” to preventing depression and anxiety—“it’s not like adding fluoride to the water”—families can do secondary prevention. “That’s basically early identification,” she says in an interview. “I also hope that parents will learn more about adolescent development and the needs of teens who feel ‘different,’ including
those who are LGBTQIA or from other minority groups.”
The book provides the tools parents need to better communicate with teenagers and establish a strong foundation for the family. Landau covers the common stressors in teens’ lives, including social media, perfectionism, and the college application process. The goal is for adults to learn and then teach the kids in their lives the problem-solving and self efficacy skills they will need in college while also learning to identify when expert help might be needed.
“If a child is more irritable than normal, hasn’t been sleeping, is tearful for more than two weeks,” Landau says, “get an assessment. Call your primary care physician. Early intervention is never a bad thing.”
While Landau wrote Mood Prep 101 before the COVID19 pandemic, her lessons are even more relevant now. She says with something like 40 percent of youth experiencing a major clinical depression or anxiety or both, we should have been addressing this as a significant public health issue. The pandemic triggered even more mental health issues in young people.
“We never had good uncertainty tolerance because most of us are rushing in to fix ‘it’ for our kids,” Landau says. “And now you add the most uncertain situation—who’s going to live or die? Is school open or closed? And then you add college on top of that. Now there’s panic about how this admission process is going
Mood Prep 101’s take home message is that parents need to provide ongoing support and ease up on the pressure they put on kids to get into good schools and be successful, and Landau is hoping the pandemic might actually change things for the better.
“I’ve been against this ultracompetitive approach to high school and college that places teens under so much pressure,” she says. “I’m hoping this situation leads to more flexibility because that’s probably the key for both parents and kids.”