Depression in Teens
Suicide is mentioned in this post.
Like most teens these days, I find myself spending hours a day on TikTok, a social media platform where users can create videos to different sounds or use their own voice. And as I scroll down my For You page I find more and more videos about teens struggling with their mental health. We can all agree that COVID-19 certainly hasn't done much to help teens with depression, but just how many teens are now struggling with depression?
Depression is a serious mental health problem that can cause a multitude of symptoms like, persistent sadness or loss of interest in activities. It's a mental illness that can be caused by a series of things, such as brain chemistry, hormones, inherited traits, early childhood trauma, or learned patterns of pessimistic thinking. Teens with a home disruption, like a divorce or death of a parent also increases the chances of developing depression.
Nowadays, teens are able to communicate with anyone 24 hours a day, including both their friends and strangers. Teens know when they are being left out because their friends post their time
together on their private Snapchat story. Teens know their friend was talking bad about them after seeing a text on their phone about it. This causes feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, frustration, anger, sadness, emptiness, irritability, relationship problems, exaggerated self-blame, sensitivity to failure, thinking life is grim, or even frequent thoughts of death or dying. In addition to this, Instagram influencers and celebrities post photoshopped photos of themselves, giving teens unrealistic beauty standards. This can cause low self-esteem, self hatred, or eating disorders.
Stress also plays a big role in teen depression. School is a constant stress for students. On the American College Health Association survey in 2015, 30% of students identified that stress was negatively affecting their academic performance, and 14% for depression. There is a constant pressure put on students by parents and schools to get good grades to go to a good college. In addition to this, there are sometimes multiple tests a day, each one having a huge impact on our grade in the class. COVID-19 has certainly made this worse. The entire learning environment is completely different from what everyone is used to. Teaching and planning out lessons is harder for teachers, and learning is harder for students. Tests and quizzes stress both me and many of my friends out more than before, especially when it's so hard to learn the proper material. Poor school performance can be a symptom of depression as well.
Behavioral changes or symptoms are also very common. Tiredness, loss of energy, insomnia, sleeping too much, changes in appetite, use of alcohol or drugs, restlessness, agitation, slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements, complaints of unexplained body pains, less attention to hygiene or appearance, angry outbursts, disruptive behavior, self-harm, or making a suicide attempt or plan can all be signs that someone is suffering from depression.
COVID-19 has made it nearly impossible to see anyone outside your own household for months on end. Proms, sports seasons, clubs, events, college move-ins, and exciting events were canceled, leaving kids rightfully disappointed. One thing after the other was canceled. People got their hopes up, and one by one they were left saddened. It was extremely hard to be optimistic or happy when everything you were looking forward to was ripped out of your grasp, and you couldn't even see your friends in person to talk about it. Dr. Jennifer Wojciechowski, a clinical psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital shares, "The increased isolation and stress related to COVID-19 may also lead to higher rates of teen depression, anxiety and even suicide, especially in teens who were struggling with mental health challenges prior to the pandemic."
Many teens believe that they are alone in their depression. In reality, 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression. And about 20 percent of all teens experience depression before they reach adulthood. The depression rates rose rapidly among children ages 12-17. In the U.S. it increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 12.7% in 2015. Depression is a lot more common than most people think, which is extremely sad. What's even worse is how only 30% of depressed teens are being treated for it.
So how can you help someone that seems to be suffering from depression? Health care professionals say that reaching out to them and starting a conversation about it is a good place to start. Telling the person you are worried about how you feel and why you want to talk to them. Some conversation starters could be:
- "I have been feeling really worried about you lately."
- "I've noticed a change in you recently, so I wanted to check up on you."
- "You've seemed pretty down lately, is everything okay?"
Once the conversation is started, ask the person questions about their feelings of sadness:
- "When did you start feeling like this?"
- "Did something happen that made you feel this way?"
- "Have you thought about getting help?"
- "What can I do to help?"
If you think you have depression, there are ways to help yourself too:
- Call your mental health professional.
- Get help from your primary care doctor or other health care professional.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one
- Contact someone in your faith community (priest, minister, rabbi, etc.)
Every 100 minutes, a teen takes their own life. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people between ages 15-24. A sign that someone might be thinking about taking their own life is self-harm. This includes cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing. If a loved one or friend is talking about suicide or has attempted suicide make sure someone stays with that person, call 911 or your local emergency number, or if safe take them to the emergency room.
If you yourself are thinking about death, dying, suicide, or are depressed please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat (in the U.S.)
Depression is a sad and dark mental health problem that needs to be talked about more. It affects thousands of teenagers in the United States, and yet many of those suffering do not know that there is a name for their constant sadness. Everyone should check up on their friends and loved ones, especially during these hard times. Remember, you are not alone. It does get better.
Donate to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to help the prevention, treatment, and cure of depression, anxiety, and many other mental health disorders and illnesses.
“Checking In on Your Teenager's Mood During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” NYU Langone News, nyulangone.org/news/checking-your-teenagers-mood-during-covid-19-pandemic.
“Consequences of Student Mental Health Issues.” Consequences of Student Mental Health Issues | Suicide Prevention Resource Center, www.sprc.org/colleges-universities/consequences.
“Data and Statistics on Children's Mental Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 June 2020, www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html.
“Depression Is on the Rise in the U.S., Especially Among Young Teens.” Search the Website, 30 Oct. 2017, www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/depression-rise-us-especially-among-young-teens.
“Teen Depression.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Nov. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/teen-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20350985.
“Teen Isolation and Suicide Prevention during a Pandemic.” Is Coronavirus Isolation Making My Teenager Depressed? – San Diego –, 10 Sept. 2020, www.sharp.com/health-news/teen-isolation-and-suicide-prevention-during-a-pandemic.cfm.
“Why Today's Teens Are More Depressed Than Ever.” Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program, 8 May 2019, discoverymood.com/blog/todays-teens-depressed-ever/.