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High Depression Rates Affect Teens

Jami Citko and Noor Raza

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High school life is loaded with social pressure, drama, and emotional rollercoasters. As students transition from childhood to adulthood, they are pressured with real-world challenges such as getting a job, learning to drive, and figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. Along with all of this, they still must attend to academics all while balancing social conflicts and priorities in their personal lives. Juggling all of this can do quite a number on one’s mental and emotional state of being, and many teens suffer from depression and anxiety due to a number of factors. 

According to the NCCP, about one fifth of teenagers suffer from diagnosable mental health disorders. More than half experience anxiety and impulse control disorders. The third leading cause of death among teenagers. 

“We have seen a significant increase in cases of depression and anxiety at the high school level,” explained CHS counselor Brittany Watkins. “Depression impacts motivation, academic performance, and social interactions. The best way to handle depression is to recognize the symptoms and seek help as soon as possible.” 

There are many factors that are thought to be causes of depression and anxiety, especially in teenagers and students. One of these factors is school workload. Students are overwhelmed with the amount of work classes require to succeed, that most of the times they don’t even get a chance to breathe. They focus on doing well in school and fail to realize they’re practically destroying themselves in the process.  

Brenda Carrillo, a student services coordinator in Palo Alto Unified, says “while overloading themselves with advanced-placement classes and extracurricular activities, everyone really focuses on the future, like college and jobs. But no one’s looking at themselves and asking, ‘Am I happy?'” 

Junior Clare Smith has first-hand experience with this issue and has observed it in the behavior of other students as well. 

“Needing to meet a certain expectation then falling flat and not only having parents and teachers being disappointed in you, but the even worse reality of having to deal with being disappointed in yourself,” Smith expressed.  

When expectations aren’t met, students tend to feel discouraged and frustrated with themselves. These emotions lead to low self-esteem within a student, causing them to feeling depressed.  

Another contributing factor is sleep, or rather lack thereof. According to WebMD, “lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can make depression worse.” This becomes an increasingly severe issue among teenagers as they transition from middle school to high school schedules, getting significantly less sleep than they had in the past yet needing more in order to be healthy. 

Paired with the increased risk of depression during adolescence, the amount of sleep a teenager gets is a crucial factor in determining mental health. 

There are social factors which contribute to mental health as well. Junior Ravdeep Panesar believes that bullying plays a role. 

“You think about what someone says to you; you take it to heart,” Panesar explained. “[Victims of bullying] are self-conscious of themselves and they overthink stuff.” 

This theory has traction, though there is more to it than that. 

Many teens suffer from social stress, which comes from the people around you as well as your own self-image, which affect your self-worth. According to New Scientist, types of social stress include anxiety, issues with body-image, and, as Panesar said, bullying. 

Junior Jamie Pan suffers from anxiety, and often has difficulty making decisions and asking for help because of self-doubt. 

“I’m always afraid, and I’m constantly second-guessing myself. I have trouble asking questions in class because I don’t want to look stupid, and I don’t want to speak out and say the wrong thing. It’s just the fear of being judged,” Pan explained. 

Social stress has been found to be a leading cause of depression. 

A study done by Scott Russo on mice revealed that, when exposed to social stress, substances such as interleukin-6 are able to more easily leak into the brain from the bloodstream. According to the New Scientist article, “people with depression can have as much as 100 times more interleukin-6 in their blood than people who aren’t depressed.” Essentially, social stress is directly linked to depression. 

But why are today’s teens more depressed than those of previous generations? An article in Time Magazine gives some serious insight into why the current teenage generation is experiencing more pressure and stress than previous generations have. 

“Being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social-media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism–you name it,” the article explains. 

In this new age of smartphone use, information travels at lightning speed. Public awareness has increased immensely, especially for teenagers. Unlike the generations of the past, today’s teenagers are more aware of global and societal issues, and are in turn constantly pressured by them. 

Depression is an increasingly prevalent issue among teenagers, and it is important to be educated on it, whether for yourself or those around you. 

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High Depression Rates Affect Teens