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Kids These Days: What's it like living with anxiety?

Katie Raymond
Michigan Radio
Kids these days are a lot more stressed than generations before them. What's it like living with that anxiety?

A note: We talk briefly about depression and suicide in this episode. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, we have a list of resources available to help here.

Kids these days are stressed. Really. They’re a lot more stressed than generations before them.

Millions of teens have an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Mira is one of those teens. She’s a sophomore at Community High School.

“Anxiety for me often shows up in places where I lack control. It usually flares up most around school and social activities,” she says.

Mira says she’s had anxiety for a while, and that people often ask her what it’s like living with it.

“It feels like you want to crawl out of your own skin or like that stomach dropping feeling you get on a rollercoaster, but all the time.”

Mira has found coping mechanisms to help her deal with her anxiety. Mental health days; spending time alone. But one place she didn’t expect to find comfort was in theater. That was until she discovered the musical Dear Evan Hansen. It’s about an anxious teen who feels alone and struggles to connect with others.

Mira fell in love with the song “You Will Be Found.”

“When I first heard this song, I was so surprised that others were also feeling this way. I didn’t know where it was from or what it was called but I loved it. I remember getting home and immediately googling the lyrics and then listening to it. In the song, Evan Hansen, for the first time, feels...heard and not alone,” she says.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are the creators of Dear Evan Hansen. Mira got the chance to talk to them and tell them what the musical meant to her.

Credit Dirty Sugar Photography
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are the creators behind the musical Dear Evan Hanson.

Here's a bit of their conversation:

“So I listened to the soundtrack constantly as it helped me literally realize that I was not alone knowing that this is a battle that so many people fight helped me as I was trying to understand what I was going through. Even after I understood it then it started helping me fight it,” Mira said.

“You're like the exact type of person that we wanted to reach with this show. And it's really amazing to get to talk to you and get to hear how it's affected your life. And we're really grateful for it,” Pasek said.

Mira asked the duo why they focused on mental health as a theme for the musical.

“Benj had a specific incident in his high school. And we talked about how that incident wasn't the only one like it and we could think of other ones. And really how it had a lot to do with connection. The desire that we have to connect, the need that we have to connect the ways that we are now hyperconnected and yet not connected at all. Social media is sort of having that dual effect of bringing us together, but also making us feel very alone in certain ways,” Paul said.

“I think part of this is we wanted to sort of explore what it is like to feel that kind of loneliness and isolation and what does one have to do to rescue him or herself from that situation and how do we try to get out of it? And I think that there's a lot of power in realizing that the things that you thought you were alone and feeling are actually quite universal,” Pasek said.

You can hear Mira’s full conversation with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul – creators of Dear Evan Hansen – in episode three of Kids These Days on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen.

If you or someone you know is facing immediate harm because of suicidal or homicidal thoughts or actions, please get help now:

Mental health resources for teens

Additional mental health resources for parents, and families, and educators at our website, michiganradio.org.

Support for Michigan Radio's Kids These Days comes from the Michigan Health Endowment Fundand The Children's Foundation.

Want to support more podcasts like this? Consider making a gift to Michigan Radio today.

Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.