• Contact Us

    Texas School Health Program
    PO Box 149347, MC 1945
    Austin, TX 78714-9347
    1100 West 49th Street
    Austin, Texas 78756

    Phone: 512-776-7279
    Fax: 512-776-7555

    Email comments or questions to SchoolHealth@dshs.texas.gov

Health Chats


Surveys show that stress among teenagers is on the rise, making it even more important 

that educators, parents and students know the signs of anxiety and depression.

Student Stress Is Rising: Know the Warning Signs

Teen stress is on the rise. One-third of teenagers surveyed by the American Psychological Association predicted their stress will continue to increase and nearly one-half said they aren’t doing enough to manage it.

Stress from school, poverty, bullying and personal loss may lead youngsters to experience anxiety or depression. Experts say it’s important that parents, educators and students know the signs of anxiety and depression—and what to do about it.


Anxiety is when a person worries excessively. Some kinds of anxiety may be “phases” that the child outgrows with age. When a child doesn’t outgrow these worries or when he or she worries about so many things that it negatively affects school or social interactions, the child may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Some common anxiety disorders are:

  • Separation anxiety: Fear of being separated from a parent.
  • Phobia: Extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs or going to the doctor.
  • Social anxiety: Fear of school and other places where there are people.
  • General anxiety: Worry about the future.
  • Panic disorder: Episodes of intense fear accompanied by heart pounding, trouble breathing, dizziness, shaking.
  • Selective mutism: Extreme fear that causes a child not to talk in certain situations.

Anxious children may be clingy, irritable, or angry. They may experience physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping, extreme tiredness, headaches or stomachaches.

Mental health experts say there are some things you can do to help your child if he or she has an anxiety disorder:

  • Be supportive—and patient.
  • Find a qualified therapist to help your child learn to manage his or her worries.


Everyone is sad or lonely sometimes—even kids. But if your child loses interest in things he or she once enjoyed or has long periods of sadness or loneliness, it could be a sign of depression. 

According to the CDC, a depressed child or teenager may:

  • Feel sad, hopeless or irritable much of the time
  • Not want to participate in or enjoy doing fun activities
  • Eat a lot more, or less, than is normal
  • Sleep a lot more, or less, than is normal
  • Be tired and sluggish or tense and restless
  • Have difficulty paying attention
  • Feel worthless, useless or guilty
  • Engage in self-destructive or injurious behavior or injure him or herself

Children may not want to talk about their feelings of hopelessness, and they may not seem sad. Depression might cause a child to make trouble or act unmotivated, and others might incorrectly label the child as lazy or a trouble-maker.

Extreme depression can lead a child to think about or plan suicide. For youths ages 10-24 years, suicide is the leading cause of death.

How to Help

If you know someone who is exhibiting signs of depression:

  • Get help; don’t wait to see if the depression will improve.
  • Encourage the teen to take good care of him- or herself.
  • Let the teen know he or she has value and means a lot to you.
  • Be patient; don’t say “snap out of it.”
  • Take suicide threats seriously.
  • Make sure the teen has phone numbers to call if he or she needs help.
  • Tell the teen that things will get better.
  • Encourage positive activities, including personal grooming, exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep.

Related Content from Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission

Children’s Mental Health



For More Information

Pediatric Mood and Anxiety Research

Anxiety and Depression in Children

Depression in Children and Adolescents

Children: Anxiety Disorders

Find Treatment

Kid's Health

American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults


Students will be taking the STAAR tests April-June. Parents and teachers can help by stressing the importance

of relaxation techniques, nutritious meals and plenty of rest.

4 Tips to Help Your Child Focus During STAAR Tests

April is a hectic—and stressful—month for Texas students as they prepare to take the STAARS tests. The Texas School Health Program has some tips you can try to help your child do his or her best on the big day.

Eat a healthy breakfast!

Studies have shown that children who don’t eat breakfast at school or home are less able to learn. Being hungry can lead to lower test scores, low energy and problems paying attention.

Now, you might be thinking that your kids barely leave themselves enough time to grab a piece of toast on the way out the door. But a healthy breakfast doesn’t have to take a lot of time—especially if you prepare the night before. Make these nutritious breakfasts to eat on the run:

  • Boiled eggs, keep them in the refrigerator for breakfast on the run
  • Peanut (or other nut) butter and jelly sandwiches. The protein and minerals in peanut butter will get your child off to a good start.
  • High-fiber cereal. Fill your cereal bowl the night before; add milk in the morning
  • Scrambled eggs with turkey sausage and cheese. Cook the eggs and sausage the night before; put the mixture in whole wheat tortilla and heat in the morning

Learn some relaxation techniques!

Students who suffer from text anxiety may be overanxious during standardized tests. Test anxiety is a real thing—and it can be severe. They may have a stomachache, headache, throw up or pass out. You might have felt the same way when you sang a solo in the choir or gave a presentation at work. 

Nemours TeensHealth advises kids to learn some relaxation techniques to use during stressful situations. Here are a couple you might try:

  • Controlled breathing: Psychology Today recommends the "balloon breath" technique — inhaling slowly and deeply as the stomach fills up like a balloon—to help people feel calm and centered. Remind your child to use quiet, deep breaths (in and out of the nose) on test day.
  • Tense and release: Start with one hand and show your child how to tense the muscles into a fist; release the muscles, and shake them out to relax. Move on to the arm and do the same tense-and-release motion throughout the body.

Get enough sleep!

Teenagers and younger kids need adequate sleep to be able to focus in school. According to the National Institutes of Health, school age children need good quality sleep to feel and perform their best. The NIH recommends 9-12 hours of sleep for 6- to 12-year-olds and 8-10 hours of sleep for 13- to18-year-olds.

Help set the stage for your child to get a good night’s sleep by:

  • Cutting out caffeine—including caffeinated soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate—in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine is a stimulant; its effects can last as long as 8 hours and interfere with sleep.
  • Avoiding heavy or large meals within a three hours of bedtime. (Having a light snack is okay.)
  • Spending time outside during the day, and being physically active.
  • Keeping your bedroom quiet, cool and dark (a dim night light is fine, if needed).
  • Taking a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bedtime.
  • Having an hour of quiet time before bed. Avoid strenuous exercise and bright, artificial light. Light from a television or computer screen may signal the brain that it's time to be awake.

Be reassuring!

Explain that standardized tests can serve a useful purpose by helping teachers decide how to use instructional time. But let your child know that he or she is not alone—almost no one enjoys taking standardized tests!


Texas Department of State Health Services’ Related Content

Texas School Health Program


Other Resources

Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency

STAAR Resources

How Blue Light Affects Kids and Sleep

Nutrition Tip: Start the Day Right with a Nutritious Breakfast

Last updated May 13, 2019