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Teens feel pressure to put on 'face of success'

Panel convenes on decreasing risk behavior, stress in wake of student's death.

March 20, 2013|By Sara Cardine

A small crowd assembled Tuesday night at City Hall to talk frankly about the stresses and difficulties today's teenagers face and what can be done to prevent depression, substance abuse and suicide. But while attendance was low, the conversation generated among the teens and adults who turned out was honest and bore much insight about how to improve the spirits and well-being of area youth.

The panel discussion, sponsored by the La Cañada Flintridge Youth Council and co-sponsored by the Public Safety Commission and the Community Prevention Council, follows the March 1 death of Campbell Taylor, a La Cañada High School senior who committed suicide on campus. Since then, several local outreach efforts have focused on how to better support teens in need and their families.

Throughout this process, residents are talking to teens and learning that problems associated with stress and fatigue, and the immense burden students are bearing in an effort to succeed, may be more widespread than anyone imagined.

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“We're not really touching the hearts of kids,” said panel member and La Cañada therapist Pam Erdman. “Particularly in this community, there's a pressure to present this face, a face of success. But deep inside, there's a pain — all of us are hungering for real authentic connection.”

Other panelists included Mark Yeager, senior chaplain with YMCA of the Foothills; Pasadena social worker Paul Royer; and representatives from LCHS' Bridge peer-to-peer program, Noelle Smith, Cameron Aenlle-Rocha and Katie Goetz.

The discussion centered around the particular pressures La Cañada teens face, the impact of modern technology on communication and peer influence, and what parents can do to help eliminate, instead of add to, their children's stress levels.

“You have to be available. And you need to shut up and listen,” Royer said. “Kids want to talk. They have a lot to say. But we've got to break out of our traditional molds so we know how to talk to them.”

The generation gap between parents and children is wider today than it's ever been, in part because technology and social media impede on the time and attention young people give to their families and can alienate adult viewpoints, Yeager noted.

The added pressure local youth feel to excel in school and get into good colleges, especially given the fierce competition today among applicants, often feels overwhelming.

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