Mental Health

Discussion Guide

AZ State Standards

ELA Comprehension and Collaboration – 6.SL.1-3, 7.SL.1-3, 8.SL.1-3, 9-10.SL.1-3, 11-12.SL.1-3 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

“Living Golden Rule helps teens through isolation of pandemic”

“Living Golden Rule helps teens through isolation of pandemic” by Anusha for The Arizona Republic

It’s noon.

After a lengthy night of binge-watching Netflix and mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, I finally trudge out of bed and fight every fiber of my being to plod my way into the bathroom. My phone softly buzzes on the sink countertop from the incoming assignments from Google Classroom, serving as a stark reminder of the outside responsibilities that lurk behind me. There was more than enough time in the world, yet so little energy to finish the tasks at hand. My life had turned into an endless cycle of monotony that consisted of prolonged naps, half-finished meals and an unhealthy amount of screentime.

This depressing reality mirrors the lifestyles of millions across the nation during quarantine, as isolation and remote learning have crumbled the foundation for stable mental health. A sharp incline in the prevalence of mental illness within adolescents has become the primary narrative for the harsh actualities of the global pandemic. According to a study held by the non-profit organization America’s Promise Alliance in June 2020, nearly one-third of surveyed high school students reported feeling unhappy or depressed. Additionally, Ann Murphy, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Rutgers, stated, “Social isolation and loneliness is linked with poorer mental health and higher rates of depression and anxiety.”

However, despite the constant battle between seclusion and satisfaction, a light at the end of the tunnel can be seen. Even with the seemingly neverending repetition of the same schedule and lack of social interaction, a nationwide survey held by the Institute for Family Studies at the Wheaton Institution in October of the same year revealed that the percentage of teens who were depressed or lonely was actually lower in 2020 than in 2018. The survey findings further declared that “teens’ technology use did not appear to increase dramatically during the pandemic when compared with 2018.”

The results have demonstrated a ray of hope within the inevitable fate of extended solitude and can even be seen in the lives of those around us. When interviewing Arizona teens for the Live-Golden Segment, many expressed an improvement in their well-being regardless of their circumstances. Diya, a junior at Hamilton High School, affirmed, “People around me were going through the exact same thing, and we were able to share our thoughts together.” James, a senior at Perry High School, added, “People are much more open to mental health than ever before.”

These teens reflect an important aspect of the Golden Rule that has helped their journey on this rocky path. By utilizing empathy and respect, they are transparent about their emotional situations and share their experiences to have open conversations about mental health. They understand the hardships that their peers are going through.

And you can too. Through the Golden Rule, you can leverage your empathy and respect to be the best support system for both you and those around you. In difficult times such as now, people of different backgrounds and religions can unite and become the driving force for change. Whether it be through simply checking in with a friend through text or volunteering for a local community food drive, every action counts. Your struggles matter and your community is here for you.

Tune into our segment about mental health during quarantine on Feb. 23 on AZTV Channel 7 at 8 a.m. or watch it on the AGREE Golden Rule website (az-GoldenRule.org) under LiveGolden.

Anusha Rahman is the publicist for LiveGoldenAZ! She is currently a junior at Hamilton High School.

Golden Rule Moments

Anusha Rahman Guest columnist

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“Living Golden (Even When It’s Hard): 5 Tips for Families”

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Living Golden (Even When It’s Hard): 5 Tips for Families by Jenna Sherman

It’s been a tough year to stay positive. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, families were feeling grateful for the extra time at home together. However, as time presses on, cabin fever has many of us feeling irritable and on edge.

That pent up frustration makes it difficult to live by the Golden Rule. However, at a time when so many people are struggling with mental health and financial stress, it’s never been more important to act with empathy, respect, and kindness. How can parents and teens #LiveGolden when stress is running high? From Arizona Golden Rule Educational Experiences (AGREE), here are five ways families can practice kindness at home.

Set the Scene for Kindness

If complaining, negativity, and criticism are running rampant, start by clearing the air — literally! Pull back curtains and blinds, open the windows, and let fresh air and light flow into your home. This is also the time to clean up accumulated clutter, broken items, and dust bunnies. Rather than let one person handle the chores, turn on upbeat music, set a 30-minute timer, and make it a family activity! You’ll be amazed at how quickly it goes — and how much better the energy in your home feels — when you’re done. Some people like to follow up with smudging, salt cleansing, or other folk remedies to banish negative vibes.

Practice Compassionate Communication

You can clear bad energy all day, but if your family lacks the tools to do better, it’s only a matter of time before you’re back where you started. That’s why it’s so important to teach healthy communication. Kids who can identify their feelings are better at expressing their needs.

Communication is a common sticking point between parents and teens. Teens feel like parents constantly nag, while parents feel like teens don’t listen. Breaking dysfunctional communication patterns requires work from both sides. When parents give plenty of positive, focused attention and create rules and consequences that make sense, teens are more inclined to work with their parents rather than against them. For their part, teens need to communicate calmly and directly and make time to talk with their parents, even if it’s just about everyday stuff.

Respect Each Other’s Needs

Self-care is important right now, but it’s tough to practice self-care when you don’t get a moment of “me time.” Whether you’re a teen or a parent, everyone needs time to themselves. Create a daily routine that allows downtime for everyone and be willing to lend a hand to make it happen. With a little cooperation, everyone can have a chance to fill their cup.

Express Gratitude

Gratitude is good for you. A grateful outlook has been linked to better sleep, less depression, and even improved heart health. It’s also good for relationships with the people around you. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and expressing gratitude is a simple way to do just that.

Remember to give thanks for the everyday things parents do for you, from working hard at their jobs to feeding you healthy meals. Teens can also show appreciation by helping around the house, cooking for the family, and spending quality time with their parents. Meanwhile, parents should remember that kids learn gratitude habits from adults. Show gratitude for your children and spouse and focus on the good moments, not the things that go wrong.

Do Random Acts of Kindness

The COVID-19 pandemic threw many of our usual volunteer commitments off course. But pandemic or not, doing things for others is one of the best ways to demonstrate that kindness counts. As important as kindness is at home, don’t forget the people outside your four walls. Video chat with grandparents, check in on elderly neighbors, and do random acts of kindness for your community. While there’s a lot we can’t do right now, there’s a lot we can, too.

These tips don’t just apply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Use these tips to live according to the Golden Rule during times of hardship and when all is well. When you make the Golden Rule a lifestyle, you make life better for everyone.

Want to learn more about the Golden Rule? Read AGREE’s most recent news and help AGREE provide materials to Arizona schools with a Golden Rule license plate.

Jenna Sherman created Parent Leaders to be all about what parents can do to make sure their children grow up to be strong, independent, successful adults. By providing a collection of valuable, up-to-date, authoritative resources, she hopes to help other parents acquire the skills they need to raise future leaders. Jenna is mom to three children — two girls and a boy.