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The Teen Mental Health Crisis, Part 2

The data is clear: Levels of anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide have spiked for American teenagers over the last decade. Last Friday’s episode with the psychologist Jean Twenge sifted through that data to uncover both the scale of the crisis and its possible causes. Today’s episode focuses on the experiences behind that data: the individuals who are struggling, and what we can do as friends, parents and a broader society to help them.

Lisa Damour is a clinical psychologist, the co-host of the podcast “Ask Lisa” and the author of books including “The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable and Compassionate Adolescents” and “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.” Statistics about teenage mental health are illuminating, but Damour has spent decades working closely with teens, allowing her to fill in some of the gaps in that data and give a nuanced picture of what may be going on. She has emerged from her clinical experience more hopeful about the prospects for helping teens through a life stage — and a moment in history — that poses serious challenges to their well-being.

We discuss the neuroscience behind why being a teenager is so emotionally difficult, why Damour doesn’t believe smartphones are primarily to blame for the teen mental health crisis, how overscheduling teens can hurt their social development, why girls experience more anxiety than boys even as they outperform boys in school, which types of smartphone use can be good and bad for young people, the problems with the cultural belief that stress and anxiety should be eliminated at all costs, how to tell the difference between harmful and healthy anxiety, how parents should approach social media use with their children, how all of us can help one another cope with negative emotions and more.

Book Recommendations:

Psychoanalytic Diagnosis by Nancy McWilliams

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Annie Galvin. Fact checking by Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Mixing by Jeff Geld. Our production team is Emefa Agawu, Jeff Geld, Roge Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.


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