Teen stress in the Tokyo international community

By on January 30, 2010

Photo © Elena Derevstova


Would you be surprised to learn that close to 50% of adolescents in the Tokyo international community experienced a problem they felt they could not speak to anyone about? Would you expect that concerns about the future and academics topped the list of teens’ greatest worries?  Are you alarmed that 56% of these adolescents are struggling with body-image issues, while 34% reported that depression was a concern? These are some of the findings of a questionnaire administered to almost 2,000 students in the Tokyo international community, as part of TELL’s School Awareness Program.  


The chart below summarizes the top concerns of the adolescents surveyed.



 These results highlight that growing up in an international community does not make our children immune to the stresses of adolescence. Adolescence is a period of self-discovery, which is often accompanied with considerable stress. The demands of meeting parental expectations, performing at school and feeling socially connected are compounded by the biological and physical changes experienced during this period.  For teens facing other negative life challenges, such as family problems, illness, financial concerns and death, the level of stress is even more complex. Many of these adolescents have the additional challenge of living in a foreign country or returning to Japan after living abroad.  


When we asked the students what their biggest worries were at the moment, these were some of their responses.


“I do not like myself, how I act, think and talk.” (middle school student)


“I worry that people will tease me about my eating disorder.” (middle school student)


TELL recognizes that teenagers often do not have the proper resources to help them cope with their personal challenges. The School Awareness Program was established to address this concern by visiting international schools and educating students about Tokyo English Life Line (TELL). The goal of the program is for our youths to know that TELL is a safe place where they can call and talk to a caring person about anything.  Phone counselors are trained to support adolescents with their personal struggles. Calls from young people have dramatically increased since the inception of this outreach program in 2007.  After visiting the school, 83% of the students surveyed stated that the Life Line was a valuable support service.


The School Awareness Program is one of several services offered by TELL’s Child and Family Services. TELL is committed to addressing the needs of the youth in the Tokyo international community by offering a range of services including professional assessments, formalized testing, child and family counseling, child protection services and the Exceptional Parenting Group, which offers support and networking opportunities for families of children with learning differences.


Lori Wigmore is the Director of Child and Family Services at TELL Community Counseling Services and can be reached at (03) 3498-0231. Tokyo English Life Line provides free, anonymous and confidential telephone counseling from 9am to 11pm, 365 days a year at (03) 5774-0992.

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