In October, The New York Times Magazine ran a sobering cover story about the rise of anxiety in American teens, and how parents, therapists, and schools are responding. Writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis chronicled the daily battles students faced, the techniques they used to manage their anxiety, and the support they received in and out of the classroom. We asked him to tell us about the relationships he formed, how best to help anxious teens, and what he took away from the experience.
Was it helpful for these kids to tell their stories and be open about their anxiety? What did it mean to them that you listened, checked in frequently, and brought this part of their lives to light?
This is a great question. On the one hand, there’s no doubt that meeting me and answering my questions — especially at first — triggered anxiety in some of the teens I met. Some said this directly; in other cases, their anxiety was obvious. I spent a lot of time with one anxious teen girl who had attempted suicide a few weeks before I met her, and in the end I decided not to include her in the piece because I worried that she was too fragile emotionally. Though I didn’t plan to use her full name or have her be photographed, I still worried about how she would react to what can be an intense fact-checking process, and to then seeing her story in print.