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Charlotte Talks: Stress, Success And American Education


Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020

From kindergarten through college, students face intense pressure to achieve. Finding the balance between the drive to succeed and mental health is paramount for American youth. 

In many schools SAT prep has begun as early as 4th grade and coding camps are being advertised to children as young as 7.

While every parent wants the best for their child, academic pressure is putting significant levels of stress on American youth. In 2019 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine added students in “high achieving schools” to the list of "at-risk" groups, alongside children living in poverty, foster care, and those with incarcerated parents.

According to the World Health Organization, mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in 10 to 19-year-olds. In many cases the result is fatal – suicide was the 10th most common cause of death among Americans of all ages in 2017, and the second leading cause of death among young Americans age 10 to 24, according to the CDC.

Still, adolescents are often criticized as “snowflakes” and mocked for having things like “safe spaces,” and “cry closets.” However, expectations on social media, constant coverage of global turmoil and high academic expectations are creating a culture of unsustainable pressure.  

How do we navigate our uniquely American culture of stress and success, and can we strike a balance? We speak to a school administrator, pediatric neuropsychologist and Emmy award-winning reporter to analyze the effect our culture of success at all costs is having on our youth.


Tom Franz, Head of Trinity Episcopal School

Dr. Melanie Powell, Pediatric Neuropsychologist, Founder and Managing Psychologist of Mindspark

Louise Serio, Emmy Award-winning former CBS News Reporter & Producer 

Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.