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Anxiety and Rites of Passage

My latest audiobook adventure was recommended to me twice on the same day.


So firstly, my thanks go to the intrepid and wise Chris Cawsey (Principal, Rooty Hill HS) and also Dr Michael Carr-Gregg who mentioned this book later on the very same day in a keynote presentation I observed at the Queensland Association of Secondary School Principals’ Conference, just before I strolled onto the stage myself.


The book is ‘The Anxious Generation,’ by Jonathan Haidt. It seems like I’m not the only one discovering this book’s message. In conversations since, a gym buddy and emerging school leader, Billy Quigley, and a fabulous Principal at Greater Shepparton SC, Daisy Utger, have confirmed that they’re devouring it too.


Haidt lays the blame for dramatic increases in anxiety and many other mental health disorders in our kids squarely at the feet of social media platform developers and the opportunistic means through which they used the proliferation of the smart phone (around 2010) to begin their assault on them.


A snapshot from the US:


The data reveals a staggering 145% increase in reported cases of depressive episodes among girls since 2012. For boys, the rise is even more pronounced, with a 161% increase in reported cases of depressive episodes over the same period. The impact extends beyond self-reported symptoms, with college students receiving a 134% increase in anxiety, a 106% increase in depression, a 72% increase in ADHD, and a 57% increase in bipolar disorder diagnoses since 2012.


Despite the gloom, Haidt insists this can be turned around. His suggestions include reintroducing important rites of passage for young people, where certain birthdays allow them access to technology based on their readiness.


Schools can help by normalising rites of passage in other areas. What responsibilities do young people explicitly receive when they graduate from one year to the next in your school? What rights are bestowed upon them? Or do they just get a certificate and a new stationary pack?

I highly recommend devouring The Anxious Generation as determinedly as I have… and I thank Jonathan Haidt for his contribution to one of the biggest challenges of our lifetimes.



Keep fighting that good fight,



P.S. Shout out to educators in Darwin and Townsville! You’re next on my Great Aussie Tour and I’m pretty excited about helping you access the support you deserve through my workshops for teachers and principals. Workshops in mid-June, so register now.

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