Adolescent Depression - It's Increasing, But How Do We Stop It?
By Sarah Fader
Updated May 20, 2020
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
We have an epidemic that is sweeping the nation-adolescent depression. The youth are our future, and yet we see that they are struggling more and more year after year with depression and mental health challenges. We cannot afford to ignore the statistics any longer. There are too many children and teens that are suffering.
Adolescent Depression Is On The Rise
There are plenty of statistics to back up that depression in adolescents is increasing. One such study reported that the number of adolescents that were admitted to hospitals for suicidal actions or thoughts has doubled in the past ten years. Other numbers show that teen suicide has tripled since the 1960's. If you put those two statistics together, you get a clear image that the trend is not reversing itself. And, it isn't going to get better on its own. We need to do a better job of understanding adolescent depression, so we know how we can help turn the numbers around and help young people out of this struggle.
Along with the number of teen suicide, the consumption of alcohol and use of drugs has increased in adolescents as well. You don't need to hear the statistics on this one because you can simply turn on the news or look up current news events around the country to see the proof of this information. Big city or little rural town, it doesn't matter because these problems are reaching adolescents everywhere.
What is Contributing To The Increase
There are many theories about why so many adolescents are dealing with depression. One of the main beliefs is that this is a time in life when many things are changing. They are experiencing a new level of peer pressure to fit in with those they are around. There is also a lot of pressure to perform well socially and academically. It is also a time when the need to perform at a higher level in sports is on the rise. This is a time in life when youth are starting to identify who they are and where they fit in the world. This is not an easy task for some to do.
Another reason that many people believe is contributing to the problem is social media. Youth are being exposed to more things than ever thanks to newer technology. While the technology is good for some things, it is also stealing time away that children used to use to interact face-to-face with one another developing social skills that helped them deal with life situations. The easy access to social media has created a new type of bullying-cyberbullying.
It used to be that kids could escape bullying when they were at home, but not it follows them everywhere they go. There is no escape. And, it has been found that people, both adults, and adolescents, will say things over the internet that they would never to say to someone's face in person. This adds to the issues of bullying and the depths of depression.
Symptoms To Look For
Adolescents are at a difficult point in life. They are a lot of changes that are happening, and life can feel out of control. Ups and downs are happening all around. Every adult understands the challenges of being a teenager. It is common knowledge that adolescents are known for being "moody," sleeping long hours and withdrawing from spending time with family. These "normal" behaviors that teens experience can make it difficult to spot depression in adolescents.
You want to watch for the following signs that could indicate a struggle with depression:
- Change in sleeping habits
- Low energy levels
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Struggling with feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Constantly bored
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Academic performance at school begins to suffer
- Changes in weight
- Appears sad or tearful
How Can We Reduce The Number Of Adolescents Suffering From Depression?
We must start reducing how many adolescents are suffering from depression. That is going to involve looking for ways to reduce the number of youth that is affected in the first place and helping those that are already experiencing symptoms.
Limit Social Media Access And Time Spent On Platforms
This is an unpopular suggestion to many youths but also an effective one. Even if bullying is not an issue for an adolescent social media still causes problems in the form of comparison. People judge they're living off what they see others sharing on social media, which is a dangerous game to play.
Boost Self-Esteem And Confidence
Developing habits that increase confidence and self-esteem can help those suffering from depression. A simple way to do this is to start keeping track of success daily. At the end of each day acknowledge and write down at least three successes that you had throughout the day. These can be big items or small ones; it doesn't matter. The important thing is that you do it daily. This helps you to see areas that you are succeeding in instead of focusing on the areas that seem like you are failing.
One of the first things that people stop carrying about when suffering from depression is self-care. This includes things like nutrition, personal hygiene, and sleep. To help reduce adolescent depression, there needs to be more focus on teaching kids good self-care routines and habits. This includes things like getting exercise daily, even if it is something minor. Being physically active is good for both physical health and mental health. It gets the endorphins going which increases the feelings of happiness.
Other habits that are important to develop is choosing good nutrition. This can be a difficult one for adolescents but eating right can also play an important role in fighting depression. Poor nutrition can make it even harder to have the energy to handle daily tasks. Taking time to go outside and be in the sunlight is also important and can be good for a quick mood boost.
Proper sleep plays a role in fighting depression. As kids get older, they start to stay up later at night and want to sleep longer in the morning. Late nights playing sports or doing homework can cause many students not to get the proper amount of sleep. When fighting depression, it is important to get enough sleep each night without getting too much sleep. When the morning comes, it is important, even on the weekend, to get up and get going for the day.
Withdrawing from family relationships can be a somewhat normal thing for teenagers to experience. They are working towards setting out on their own and finding where they belong in the world. This often involves wanting to spend more time with friends and less time with family. However, for those struggling with adolescent depression withdrawal takes on a new meaning. It often involves pulling away from everyone including friends. They lack the desire to spend time with friends or even talk with them. They shut down and stay to themselves.
Healthy relationships are important. When you are struggling with depression, it is good to spend time with friends and family that support you. Spending time with people that can make you laugh and look at life through different eyes is a good way to keep things in perspective and boost your mood for at least a short time.
Continue To Increase Anti-Bullying Efforts
If we want to reduce adolescent depression, we need to continue to increase anti-bullying efforts, and this includes addressing cyberbullying. We need to stop children from reaching the point that they feel like this world is hopeless or that they are worthless. We need to reduce the stress that adolescents are facing and let them adjust to life as they age into mature adults.
Kids of all ages need to be taught that what they say and how they treat one another matter. They need to be taught that the simple power of their words can help to build others up or tear them down. And, they need to learn that they are responsible for their actions, which means if they choose to bully (which includes gossiping, talking behind their backs, spreading rumors, insulting in person or on the internet), they are responsible for what happens to others.
The Importance Of Educating Adolescence On What Depression Is
Adolescents need to be taught about depression, including what it is and how to spot it in themselves and others. Schools need to be bringing in mental health speakers to teach these kids what to do and how to encourage those around them to get help if needed. As mentioned earlier, depression causes people to withdrawal. Depression is a problem for adults as well, but it's different with students.
In school, your social status is a major indicator of where you fall in the world. Kids that are withdrawn are often left to the side. Other kids speculate about them, but few reach out to make a difference. This needs to be addressed. Teens need to know what steps to take in getting help if they think they are struggling with depression or what steps to take if they spot the symptoms in others.
Get Professional Help
It is startling the number of people that struggle with depression and don't seek help. There is a stigma that surrounds mental health, including depression, and it stops people from getting the help they need. The more we talk about and address the topic of mental health and depression the faster we will be able to eliminate this stigma. If you are adolescent suffering from symptoms of depression, or if you are a parent and your child shows symptoms of depression, seek help immediately. Professional therapists, like those at Better Help, have a variety of ways that they can help you through these challenges. Do not delay in seeking help for yourself or a loved one.