Adolescent Depression - It's Increasing, But How Do We Stop It?

By Sarah Fader |Updated May 18, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By 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 other mental health challenges. We cannot afford to ignore the numbers any longer. 

Adolescent Depression Is On The Rise

There are plenty of statistics to back up the assertion 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 the incidence of suicide tripled for people aged 10-14 between 2007 and 2017. If you put those two statistics together, you get a clear image that the trend is not reversing itself. We need to do a better job of understanding adolescent depression so that we know how we can turn the numbers around and help young people out of this struggle.

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

What Is Contributing To The Increase?

There are many theories about why so many teens are dealing with depression. One of the main explanations is that adolescence is a time in life when many things are changing. Young people might be experiencing a new level of pressure to fit in with those they are around. There is also a lot of pressure to perform well socially and academically. 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 thing that may be contributing to the problem is social media. Youth are being exposed to more things than ever thanks to newer technology. While technology is good for some things, it can also keep teens from interacting face to face with one another and developing social skills that help them manage future life situations. 

Symptoms To Look Out For

Adolescent Depression Is Increasing - Don't Wait, Get Help

Adolescents are at a difficult point in life. There 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. But sometimes, the seemingly typical behaviors of a teen can make it difficult to spot depression in them. Look out for the following signs, which 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
  • Irritability
  • Appearing sad or tearful

How Can We Reduce The Number Of Adolescents Living With Depression?

We must take steps to get help for adolescents who are living with depression. That is going to involve looking for ways to reduce the number of adolescents that are affected in the first place, as well as helping those who are already experiencing symptoms.

Self-Esteem And Confidence

Developing habits that increase confidence and self-esteem can help those struggling with depression. A simple way to do this is to start keeping track of your teen’s success daily. At the end of each day, help them acknowledge and write down at least three successes that they 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 can help them to see areas that they are succeeding in instead of focusing on the areas in which it may seem like they are failing.

Self-Care

It is common for people living with depression to abandon their self-care efforts. This includes things like nutrition, personal hygiene, and sleep. To help reduce adolescent depression, it can help to put more of a focus on teaching young people healthy self-care routines and habits. This includes things like getting exercise daily, even if it is just for a short while. Being physically active is good for both physical health and mental health. It gets the endorphins going which increases the feelings of happiness.

Another habit that is 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 managing 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.

Additionally, proper sleep can play a role in addressing symptoms of depression. As kids get older, they start to stay up later at night and often want to sleep longer in the morning. Late nights playing sports or doing homework can cause many students not to get a proper amount of sleep. When managing depression, it is important to get enough good quality sleep each night. Also, when the morning comes, even on the weekend, it can help to get outside first thing, which can serve as an energy boost.

Self-care may also include activities like meditation, yoga, or reading. Creating healthy routines can promote mental and physical wellness in young people.

Healthy Relationships

Some parents feel like once their children reach adolescence, they stop spending time with the family. In most cases, this is because teens 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 can take on a new meaning. It often involves pulling away from everyone, including friends. They may lack the desire to spend time with friends or even talk with them. A teen experiencing depression can shut down and keep to themselves.

Healthy relationships are important. When you are living with depression, it is good to spend time with friends and family who support you. Spending time with people who 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.

Anti-Bullying Efforts

If we want to reduce adolescent depression, it’s important that we continue to increase anti-bullying efforts. There is a clear correlation between bullying and depression in adolescence. Part of reducing the stress that adolescents are facing is reducing the amount of bullying that they’re exposed to at a young age. We need to be able to help them adjust to life as they age into mature adults.

Kids of all ages need to be taught that how they treat one another matters. They need to be taught the power of their words and how to use those words to build each other up. 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, etc.), they are responsible for what happens to others.

The Importance Of Educating Adolescents On What Depression Is

Adolescent Depression Is Increasing - Don't Wait, Get Help

Adolescents need to be taught about depression, including what it is and how to spot it in themselves and others. Schools need to bring in mental health experts to teach these kids what to do if they’re experiencing depression—and how to encourage those around them to get help if needed. As mentioned earlier, depression can cause people to withdraw from social interaction, which can be particularly damaging for adolescents. The effects of depression are often difficult to deal with as a young person, and acknowledging that reality and helping to mitigate it is incredibly important.

Get Professional Help

Even as it continues to be a problem in society, most people who experience depression do not receive treatment for it. This can be for several reasons, one of the most significant being the stigma that surrounds mental health. The more we talk about and address the topic of mental health and depression, the faster we can potentially eliminate this stigma. Other common barriers include cost, geographical limitations, and time constraints.

Online therapy can help you get around these obstacles. With online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist wherever you have an internet connection. The experienced mental health professionals at BetterHelp can help you identify and address the symptoms of depression in yourself or others. If you are a young person living with symptoms of depression, or if you are a parent and your child shows symptoms of depression, consider reaching out for help.

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