A third of under 18s have clinical anxiety/depression – expert view on how to handle back to school stresses

10 min read

Research by Wysa reveals that more than 8 in 10 teenagers are experiencing mental health worries, with 1 in 3 needing professional support, according to standard screening. But most worryingly, young people aren’t getting the help that they need. More than half (55%) who scored 3 or more on GAD2 and PHQ2 screening questionnaires for anxiety and depression haven’t spoken to a relevant professional about it. Given that  7 in 10 (69%) young people said that they are very worried about school work and exams, what can parents do to help their young people this September? 

Emma Taylor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Lead at Wysa, a leading AI mental health app that is clinically proven to reduce anxiety and depression shares her top tips to help teens going back to school:

Emma Taylor - Wysa

1. Establish a routine

Help young people and teenagers create a structured daily routine that includes time for school work, hobbies, exercise and physical activity, relaxation and seeing their friends. A consistent routine can provide a sense of stability and security, which is important for wellbeing as it can reduce anxiety.

2. Sleep, sleep and more sleep

Our work with schools in Scotland shows that one of the biggest stresses felt by 7 in 10 young people is sleep. Either a lack of sleep is making them anxious and stressed, or stress, worry and anxiety is stopping them sleep. Encourage young people to get a good night’s sleep by having a good routine, having down time before bed, and keeping busy in the day so that they get physically tired. Remind them that being well rested gives them the energy to do the great things they want to – sleep is cool.

3. Teach stress management techniques

One great way to relieve anxiety and stress is through grounding via mediation and mindfulness. Help young people and teenagers learn various stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or journaling. These techniques can provide them with effective tools to cope with stress and anxiety.

4. Meet them where they are

Young people use their phones all the time. The Wysa Youth Report showed if teenagers had a mental health app that they could talk to about their worries in confidence, 78% would choose the app over a teacher. 3 in 10 say that they go to TikTok for support with mental health. Wysa is available to young people aged 13+, with tailored and persoanlised support that is works for teenagers.

5. Encourage open communication

Create an environment where young people feel comfortable expressing their feelings and concerns. Encourage them to talk about their experiences, anxieties, and challenges related to going back to school. Don’t dismiss their worries, but use active listening where you paraphrase what they have said, so that they feel heard. 

6. Don’t make it all about academic performance

Raising the next generation is about supporting them to become well rounded individuals. Encourage them to do their homework and focus on school, but don’t make it all about getting top grades. In fact too much pressure can make younger people more anxious and stressed, resulting in performance decline.

7. Promote healthy lifestyle habits

Emphasise the importance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and sufficient sleep. These lifestyle factors play a crucial role in managing mental health and overall well-being. Cook with them and make tasty snacks that are easy to grab on the go. 

8. Encourage social connections

Support young people in fostering positive social relationships with their friends, and meet new people. Encourage them to participate in activities that interest them, join clubs or sports teams, or engage in community events. Social connections provide support and a sense of belonging, and can boost confidence.

9. Teach problem-solving skills

Help young people develop problem-solving skills to address challenges they may encounter at school. Encourage them to break down problems into manageable steps, brainstorm solutions, and consider the potential outcomes of their decisions. Problem solving is one of the skills that CBT teaches, using critical thinking.

Wysa is being used by young people in West London via Hammersmith, West London & Fulham Mind, is available to students in Edinburgh schools, and is being rolled out in regions across the country.

Top stresses for students aged 13-17 years old according to independent research:

  1. School work and exams – 69%
  2. Your future – 66%
  3. The way you look – 56%
  4. What people think of you – 52%
  5. Your money – 50%
  6. Your parents health – 50%
  7. Your parents money – 48%
  8. Friendships – 41%
  9. Your health – 41%
  10. War – 33%
  11. Your parents not getting on well – 32%
  12. Your safety – 32%
  13. Relationships – boyfriends/girlfriends – 31%
  14. Climate change or environment – 30%

The full report can be downloaded at www.wysa.com/uk-youth-report

Case study

Koda, 17, is a student who uses Wysa and he says: “I found out about Wysa through a friend when I was feeling very depressed and suicidal. I truly believed that there was no hope for me. I started to use the app and having the 24/7 support, no matter where I was or what time it is, has been the best thing. I can just pull out my phone and talk through any problems I might be having at the time, like a panic attack. Every time I finish a session with Wysa, I feel more relaxed and ready for the day. I like knowing that I’m not going to be judged or feel like a burden when talking to Wysa. It’s a safe outlet for me when life is getting too tough to handle. There is always something available to help me and it has done a great job at getting me out of my depression. I’ve started to be more active and productive and my overall mood has been a lot better.”

Teen sat outside in nature by a lake during September in the autumn leaves, under a tree wearing a bobble hat. Teen stress. Back to school stressors.


Francesca Baker

[email protected] 

About Emma Taylor

Emma Taylor is the founder and clinical director of Digital Mentality and is currently the Children’s Clinical Lead of WYSA – the worlds leading AI app for mental wellbeing. She qualified as a mental health nurse in 2012 and has worked in Child and Adolescent Mental Health throughout that time.She has won several awards for her work in nursing and digital innovation. She is an experienced clinical innovator in digital services and the clinical safety officer for WYSA. She is currently leading the first NHS real world study into the use of AI in mental health, funded by NIHR. 

About Wysa

Wysa is a global leader in AI-driven mental health support, available both to individuals, through employer benefits programmes and healthcare services. We believe access to support should be available whenever people need it. Stigma prevails, so we take away the need for people to ask for help and eliminate the need for people to make a judgement call on when they should seek professional support.

Proven to improve depression and anxiety scores by an average of 31%, Wysa’s AI-first approach enables employees to improve their mental health before symptoms become severe, by understanding an individual’s needs and guiding them through interactive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) exercises. Wysa’s clinically safe AI encourages users to take additional support, whenever it’s needed, by guiding them towards Wysa’s human coaching, employer benefits programmes (EAP) or national crisis lines. Wysa has helped over 5 million people through 500 million AI conversations across 90 countries.


On behalf of Wysa, Obsurvant carried out a survey targeting 13-17 year olds in the UK. Respondents were asked about their mental health struggles and the support (or lack thereof) they have received in response. Respondents were incentivised and each provided opt-in consent in line with GDPR guidelines. Obsurvant is an accredited MRS company partner.

This survey was completed by 1,406 respondents on both mobile and desktop devices and all were based in the UK.

The research targeted 13-17 year olds either directly or through parents with opt in consent and a handover within the survey. Given the nature of the questions there was a summary and the option to end the survey at the beginning. 

Different recruitment methods were used to remove any potential single source bias. Quality Control Measures included Geo IP tracking and digital fingerprint checks to ensure that there was no duplication or link manipulation.

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