STANFORD, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — We are living in anxious times these days, and that’s taking its toll on teens and young adults. More than six out of ten college students report having overwhelming anxiety, some so much they have difficulty functioning. As a result, an increasing number of students are seeking out treatment for mental health.    

Brad Waldo knew that he was supposed to be one of the lucky ones. In high school, he had a 4.0 GPA, was on the football team and popular, but he was also struggling.

“For years, I was addicted to heroin and Xanax,” Waldo shared.  

Brad’s addiction was rooted in anxiety and depression. And he’s not alone in feeling pressure, 60% of college students suffer from anxiety or psychological distress.

“It was never even a discussion if I would go to college or not. And then there’s this other social stress. There’s always eyes on you for social media,” Waldo said.

Psychologist Jennifer MacLeamy, PhD, executive director of Newport Academy says it’s hard to separate everyday stress from real mental illness in teenagers and young adults.

“And really loneliness and isolation is one of the things that we’re seeing more and more in both teens and young adults,” MacLeamy said.

But parents play an important role.

“For parents I would be aware of certain warning signs like withdrawal, changes in behavior from before — particularly around friends and school,” MacLeamy said.   

“I was at Newport Academy for 70 days. I did outpatient therapy for a year and then I’ve been engaged in therapy for the last eight years,” Waldo said.

Waldo is now helping others who are struggling.  

“It can be pretty remarkable the change that people make. I think of it kind of as almost an unveiling in returning back to who they really have the capacity to be,” exclaimed MacLeamy.  

Seeking help is the first step.

In 2015, New York became the first state to require mental health education in public schools. Currently, more than 44 million American adults have a mental health illness.

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.