By Gianna Voges, Sussex Academy senior

Burnout is a feeling of chronic stress that leads to emotional and physical exhaustion. It happens when you’re emotionally drained, overwhelmed, and unable to keep up with life’s incessant demands. It doesn’t happen immediately. It’s a gradual process that builds up with more stressors.

Symptoms include fatigue, negativity towards work, no enthusiasm, frustration, and being unable to deal with both personal and professional problems. Signs of burnout can even show themselves in physical pain, such as stomach or bowel problems.

A population that has been taking on major tolls of burnout, though many people disregard it, are teenagers. High schoolers are pushed to the limits constantly, especially juniors and seniors. Their classes, grades, awards, extracurriculars, and accomplishments are merely valued at how much colleges will like them. On top of that, they have to deal with normal, every-day emotional problems that all teenagers go through.

Brain development during teenage years is crucial. Teenagers need to socialize to test their limits in relationships and develop their identities. They have to figure out their independence, power struggles, and personal limits. These are all very important milestones for one to hit. How can a teenager develop properly if they have to cut time with their friends and families for school? How can they develop properly if they have to quit the activities they love to focus on applying to colleges?

Add the stress and anxiety that everyone felt from the pandemic, teenagers today are facing an epidemic. As of 2017, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans aged 15-24. This was stated by the National Center for Health Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using my personal experience as an example, I am in my senior year of high school. I am an IB Diploma candidate. This includes taking all harder-level courses, a community service project, and writing an extended essay throughout junior and senior year. I was extremely busy during the summer. I was working two jobs, directing a show, participating in YMCA’s Conference on National Affairs, and competing in Distinguished Young Women. Hey, anything to seem good on college applications, right? I’ve had to deal with personal problems as well this past year, that every person and teenage girl goes through. This included having to maintain family and friend relationships and going through like five breakups (bit of an exaggeration, but still). Mental health struggles were a huge part of my year. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder about a month ago.

All of this was topped with having to go through my important developmental years during a PANDEMIC. I’ve experienced some of the worst mental blockage of my life. I’ve been unable to do any of my summer school work. I haven’t started any of my college applications, ironically, since I’ve put all of this pressure on myself for colleges. I even put off writing this article for over a month.

The effects of burnout are tough. It’s hard to deal with and prevent it, especially in this day and age. Everyone is constantly on the go, competing with each other, and American values are based on success. Mindfulness needs to be instituted more in daily lives, personal and professional settings. Saying no and taking time for yourself is okay, too. It’s actually necessary, and should be taught more, especially at young ages.

Extreme levels of stress and burnout won’t go away if the values and expectations in American society aren’t rewritten; the achievement of success should not be held higher than the achievement of caring for yourself. Pressure is normal and can be used as a motivator. Still, some people can’t handle extreme levels of pressure, and that’s okay.

Mental health does not discriminate based on age. Teenage burnout is a huge epidemic that is sweeping our modern world. If we do not begin to take this matter seriously, our teenagers and our society will be met with dire consequences.

COVID update

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

The number of new cases nationally were 1,048,000 last week and stayed the same at 1,047,000 this week. Sussex County numbers went from 787 up to 895.

The current wave is being somewhat fueled by unvaccinated school children. Pfizer has completed its studies for vaccines in that age group. They show that a third of the adult dose works for children 5 – 11 years. They have submitted that data for review and approval.

Last week I had several people ask me what I thought about booster doses of vaccine. This was before the FDA ruling. My response was that looking at the available data showed me certain things.

The first was related to the fact that most breakthrough cases were not very severe. The second was that those individuals who did have severe breakthrough infections were people at high risk.

That led me to predict that booster doses for the general population did not make sense. Most were not at high risk and would get mild cases. Why risk vaccine side effects if they were not going to change anything.

There clearly was a need to look at booster doses for high risk people. That would help prevent severe breakthrough cases. There was also a role for booster doses for medical personnel who might have high levels of viral exposure on the job. We know that severity of disease is often related to high viral dose.

The FDA panel convened on Sept. 17 to look at booster doses for patients over age 16 who had received the Pfizer vaccine. The FDA panel voted against booster doses for everyone by a vote of 16-2 against doing so. That made scientific and medical sense.

They then voted in favor of giving booster doses to those over 65 or with high risk conditions. The vote was 18-0 in favor of doing so. That made scientific and medical sense.

They also voted that boosters should be given to health care workers and others at high risk for occupational exposure to COVID-19. That also made scientific and medical sense.

Moderna has also put in a request for booster doses. That request has not yet been formally reviewed by the FDA. However, it is likely that the review will produce similar results.

A headline last week proclaimed that Moderna vaccine was better at keeping people out of the hospital than the other vaccines. As they say the devil is in the details. They looked at patients between March and August. That meant that many had recently received their vaccines.

The numbers were small. There were 476 patients who had received two doses of Moderna vaccine. There were 738 who had received Pfizer vaccine. There were 113 patients who had received Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The differences were small. Only seven percent of Moderna breakthrough infections required hospitalization. That number was 12 percent for Pfizer. It was 21 percent for Johnson and Johnson which was only a single dose. That means the headline was blown up out of proportion to the actual statistics.