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Mental Skills Coaching for High Achieving Youth

Mind Health High Achievers: Depression And Anxiety Related Behaviours

New Zealand has some of the highest rates of depression and anxiety related issues in the developed world, for people aged between 15 and 19 years old. Issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide ideation have been shown to more prevalent amongst those who are high achievers in one or more areas, such as academic, artistic, or sport. Mental skills coaching/mental health coaching with high achievers to support time management, work life balance, and achievement perspective prior to burnout can be used to help high achievers to avoid anxiety and depression.

The mental health of youth in New Zealand has been a common topic in the news lately due to the extremely high rates of depression and anxiety related behaviours and illnesses.

  • Teen suicide rates in New Zealand are currently the highest in the developed world.
    • The worldwide average for 15 to 19-year olds who committed suicide in 2005 was 7.4 per 100,000. In New Zealand in 2013, this number was 17.6 per 100,000.
  • Anxiety and depression related conditions such as self-harm, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation are becoming more prevalent.
    • Behind obesity and asthma, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness for females aged 15 to 19 years in New Zealand.
    • The rate of self-harm hospitalisations for 15 to 19 year old females in 2011 was 212 per 100,000, for males aged 15 to 19 years the rate of hospitalisations was 80.8 per 100,000.
  • High achievers academically, artistically, and athletically, may be at a higher risk from these conditions due to an increased drive for excellence and limited available guidance for lifestyle balance, and coping with perceived failure, while high standards are being achieved.
    • Clinical psychologists link high achievement expectations, and qualities of perfectionism, to clinically diagnosable anxiety disorders.
    • Med school students who performed lower than their peers academically, recorded high levels of depression and anxiety. This suggests that those who with high academic achievements in the general population, have few strategies for coping with lower than expected results.

Perfectionism is a term often given to unrelenting high standards which are impossible to meet. When these standards of excellence are not achieved, conditions related to anxiety and depression can manifest. This is commonly explained away as “burnout” but is extremely distressing for the individual living through it. I intend to provide support, in the form of mental skills coaching, to adolescent and young adult high achievers at risk of burnout.

Mental skills coaching for high achievers aged between 13 and 25 years would involve psychoeducation to address maintaining balance and perspective while developing physically, cognitively, and emotionally through adolescence and into early adulthood. Each individual would discover their own individual strategies for balancing the workload needed to achieve excellence in their chosen fields, and for coping with perceived failures. The coaching would also challenge unrelenting high personal standards for achievement in all areas that inevitably lead to conditions related to depression and anxiety.

Mental skills coaching will also challenge the extremely damaging need for perfection and unrelenting high standards many high achievers expect of themselves in many aspects of their lives. Studies are beginning to link athletic achievement and artistic performance with academic accomplishment, showing that, for many individuals, there is an achievement expectation across all aspects of life.

Excellence in one aspect of life, sporting, academic, artistic, etc., is all consuming, and rules out opportunities to achieve across other areas. A gymnast competing at a national level in New Zealand, for example, is required to train for a minimum of 20 hours per week. Rowers and swimmers will commonly train for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the evening on week days, with competitions, extended training sessions and training camps on weekends, leaving little time for much else. The expectation, however is that academic achievement is most important at this time in life, so there is society and personal pressure to achieve at the top of each school subject while this training continues. Mental skills coaching will enable the individual to find some perspective, and work within realistic expectations of achievement that work for each person’s life goals.

Unfortunately, due to the high demand on schools to ensure that all students are performing, educational attention is more often given to those not achieving to ensure that all students are provided with opportunities to succeed at school. This can mean that high achievers are often overlooked as their struggles may not be as evident. I would like to offer some guidance to these people before they hit their burnout point.

Contact me here or text/phone 021 99 00 54.


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