Anxiety has no zip code


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

by Chloe Siohan, Staff Writer

*Names have been changed to protect identities

The realities of teens in Paterson may seem like a world away from those of teens in Glen Rock, but they are more similar than one may think.

When people think of Glen Rock, they generally think of a town filled with wealthy, affluent, and advantaged residents. On the other hand, Paterson is a town known for crime and underprivileged residents with a poverty-stricken lifestyle. Even though Glen Rock and Paterson are divided by demographics, they are united through the common theme of anxiety.

“It’s not necessarily an easy recipe,” Student Assistant Counselor Danielle Helder said regarding the causes of teen anxiety in towns like Paterson and Glen Rock.

Although teens in both towns are linked through their shared anxieties, they experience it in different ways.

“In this district, a lot of the anxiety is because of the expectations and the demands placed on them [students], and the amount of stress they experience, and the need to be perfect,” Helder said.

Helder thinks that kids in Glen Rock are overscheduled due to schoolwork, extracurriculars, etc., and don’t have enough time to decompress.

“There’s a lot of substance abuse, and I think a lot of that is escapism, and having to destress, it’s a way to destress from what’s going on.”

There’s a lot of substance abuse, and I think a lot of that is escapism, and having to destress, it’s a way to destress from what’s going on.”

— Student Assistant Counselor Danielle Helder

But on the flipside, in towns like Paterson, the causes of teen anxiety are much different. According to Helder, Paterson students feel anxiety about situations going on in their homes.

“I think the biggest thing that gave me anxiety was me not knowing if I would fit in,” said Evelyn Mills, a black teen from Paterson. “One common joke that I heard was, ‘You’re an Oreo,’ meaning I was black on the outside, and in the inside, it wasn’t the same.”

Mills was called an Oreo because her peers saw her as black on the outside but behaved in what they deemed to be a “white” way.

Although Mills isn’t bothered by the joke now, but it would get under her skin at the time.

Mills said, “At that time, it was kind of like ‘No, no, I don’t wanna be that, I need you to see me as a black girl just like you are,’ and being that I wasn’t that, it was hard for me.”

Mills’ self acceptance issues could also be due to the fact she was receiving mixed messages from teens. At the hospital where her mom works, girls would call her “ghetto,” whereas in school she would be called “white” by her peers.

Another reason for anxiety stemmed from studying. According to Mills, many kids in Paterson don’t care about school and being a conscientious student made her feel more out of place.

“I was said to be stuck up if I even said, ‘I got this grade on my test,’ to a friend who got a lower grade,” Mills said. In fear of their reaction to the fact that she got a good grade Mills would even lie and say she did badly.

Mills got through her anxiety by praying but for kids like Joshua Smith, a white teen from Glen Rock, self-reflection and change helped more in overcoming his anxieties.

Neither praying nor medication helped Smith. Instead, the best form of treatment for him wasn’t medication or therapy, but instead, a change in personality.

“Those [medication and therapy] I didn’t notice any difference with,” Smith said. “As the year has went on, I have just changed drastically as a person.”

Mills believes the differences in anxieties are caused by the environment.

“The areas we live in are completely different,” Mills said. “It’s anxiety of the environment and the things that children in our area get lost to, whether it be drugs, violence, or things of that nature.”

Mills also said there are parents who face anxiety in Paterson too.

“[There’s] anxiety of the parents of losing their child to the environment, and being stuck in the position of other people that they see growing up that aren’t really great role models for their children,” she said.

Parents in Glen Rock have anxiety as well, but for different reasons than parents in Paterson. The vicious cycle, according to Helder, occurs like this: the thought of “this is what colleges are looking for,” lingers in the minds of parents, and their anxiety fuels the anxiety of teachers, which then falls back onto the kid.

Whereas parents in Paterson worry for their children’s safety, parents in Glen Rock worry about their children’s grades. However, both live up to the harsh realities of the world: survival and success.

Although having lived in an environment different to that of Glen Rock, Mills has a message that teens living anywhere can relate to.

“Every teen has a reputation to live up to that is either set by either peers or family members,” she said. “You are a product of your environment, so people expect nothing more and nothing less of you than to act the way people that you have been raised around act.”