Diagnosed depression rates in teenagers, ages 12-17, have jumped 63 percent since 2017—males are up to 47 percent and females up to 65 percent. Why?
People are scratching their heads. School districts are struggling with this epidemic as much as anyone, as it is their students who are so often affected. What do they think could be a contributing factor? HHS counselor Ms. Mary Ellen Fata has an idea. She targets changes in the family system, as well as the widespread use of cell phones as common culprits. According to Ms. Fata, “There have been more and more studies on the effects of cell phones— in particular, how they’re creating sleeping problems, anxiety problems, and self-esteem issues— and it has also become an addictive issue.”
The notion of cell phones being attributed to teen depression has escalated among psychologists and society as a whole. After all, it’s teenagers who use technology the most. But what is the general opinion of a teenager? Are cell phones really doing that much harm, or are adults just blowing things out of proportion? One HHS freshman offers a unique perspective on cell phones and depression. She said, “Yes, but not in the way many people would think. Many people think social media causes it. I think it’s more of if someone has depression and goes on social media, they [their depression and emotions] could get triggered by things [they see] on that social media.”
What must be understood is this: cell phones are not the only cause of the rising numbers of depressed teenagers. They are a mere piece of a much larger puzzle. Another aspect of this elaborate societal disease has recently arisen. Depression may be becoming normalized in today’s culture. Ask any teenager; joking about wanting to kill yourself is far from concerning and will even get a chuckle out of your friends. According to one HHS freshman, “I don’t like them [‘I want to kill myself’ jokes]. I think they’re tacky. I don’t think they make mental health worse; they make people think that others want to kill themselves, too, so that person [believes they are] fine/normal.” The topic of this potentially harmful humor is a broad one. Entire articles have been written on it alone, which only adds to the layers hidden beneath the surface of modern teenage depression.
So how bad has diagnosed teenage depression gotten? According to Suicide.org, a teenager takes his/her own life every 100 minutes. Even more interestingly: teen females develop depression twice as often as teen males. And these victims don’t suffer lightly. People diagnosed with major depression are 30 percent more unhealthy than people not diagnosed with major depression. Depression can prompt other issues, as well. A report published on May 10, 2018, by BlueCross BlueShield states people diagnosed with major depression are seven times as likely to abuse alcohol or other substances than people not diagnosed.
To combat the increasing numbers of teenage depression, society is going to need to step up its game. Providing education and awareness is crucial. According to Ms. Fata, teenagers can take care of their mental health by “finding balance in their life.” She will often remind students who approach her about their well-being that humans are balanced creatures: we have two eyes, two hands, two feet, and so on. And to reflect on this, students should find ways to balance their personal life. Students can help themselves by figuring out how to balance school, after-school activities, time with family and time spent on technology (such as cell phones). According to Ms. Fata, if a student’s life is completely out of balance, it can cause unnecessary stress and perhaps even trigger depression. The previously-mentioned HHS student says to take care of his/her mental health, he/she listens to music as a sort of coping mechanism.
As for creating awareness at HHS, Ms. Fata says, “As a school, what we can do is start talking about it and not be afraid to talk about it.” She went on to say that we can advertise in-school resources and spread the message that it’s okay to ask for help; everyone struggles. Statistics have proven teenagers getting help for depression is highly beneficial to them. According to teendepression.org, 80 percent of teens with depression can be successfully treated if they seek the right help.
The moral of the story? The number of teenagers with depression is rising, and you don’t need to be a part of those statistics. If you are struggling with depression, don’t hesitate to get help. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to suicide preventionlifeline.org for additional information.