Teenagers are struggling with depression in greater numbers, according to statistics reported from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. This was a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rates, which revealed patterns of suicidality among high schoolers at the national, state, and school levels.
This study proved that while rates of teen suicide declined for a while in the 1990s, they’ve been steadily rising ever since, and today’s teens are at considerably high risk. Once viewed as one of society’s great taboos, suicide has become more widely discussed, and it’s the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24.
If you’re concerned about your teenager’s mental health, there are certain ways you can help.
The depressed brain
Often times, teens and young adults struggle with depression for months or years before anyone takes any notice. But parents and educators who know the signs of depression can reach out and provide assistance.
It is important to remember that this illness does not manifest in exactly the same way for everyone. Some people can present as functional and even very happy, while harboring shame about their recurrent feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and suicidality. Students with bipolar disorder are occasionally misdiagnosed with major depression.
Symptoms of depression can be much more than simple lethargy and low mood. This illness can lead to major sleep changes, decreased energy, executive dysfunction, difficulties with long-term planning, and psychomotor agitation. If a young person’s school attendance or grades begin to suffer, or they begin to socially withdraw, this could be a sign that something is wrong.
Understanding and awareness
Some adults remain fearful of depression and uncertain of how to handle it, due to misconceptions in media and the prevailing myth that it is a character flaw rather than a treatable illness. Young people who don’t feel supported by their family in the midst of their mental health struggles are likely to suffer at school, in the workplace, and in their social lives.
Fortunately, an increasing number of parents are beginning to understand the importance of teen mental health. Since the suicide of eighth grader Megan Meier gained international attention back in 2006, awareness has grown and stigma has actively eroded. This has allowed more teens to come forward about their experiences.
Plenty of resources are available for teens and young adults suffering from depression. Outpatient programs and psychotherapy are recommended for teens who aren’t in life-threatening situations, while inpatient groups or rehab for teenage depression are long-term solutions that allow young people to complete their education while pursuing recovery with a team of licensed professionals.
Causes and risk factors
Psychiatrists and psychologists remain uncertain of the exact reasons why young people are currently at such a great risk for mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, but the statistics paint an alarming truth about the mental health crisis.
Likely, it is due to a constellation of factors. Social media is often blamed for causing teens to negatively compare their lives with that of their peers. The digital landscape has made teens more capable of self-imposed isolation during periods of depression.
Teens with a family history of mental illness, abuse, and trauma are at greater risk of developing mental health issues, often alongside substance abuse or self-harming behaviors that can be dangerous and even fatal. Similarly, teens experiencing disruptions in the family unit, such as an unexpected death or divorce, are particularly vulnerable.
When you know what to look for, you can begin to identify early signs of problems and help your teenager before the problem worsens.