In his book The Happiness Industry, William Davies assembles evidence to demonstrate that strongly materialist and competitive values lead to higher levels of mental distress in young people. Research by the mental-health charity Young Minds has found that exams are a significant trigger for mental illness in young people. Schools and parents give teenagers the impression that they have a one shot opportunity at tests that will determine the rest of their lives (of course, this is not true). Children as young as 11 have been known to be fearful of unemployment.
Some parents see their children’s results as an indication of their own value. This gives the children the responsibility of their parent’s sense of self-worth. It has been noted that children in private schools are highly aware of the fees that their parents are paying for them to be there and their expectation of eventually going on to university.
Social media has been cited as a cause of depression in young people and in particular cyber bullying. Rates of bullying haven’t, in fact, risen in the past 10 years. It can, however, change our moods and feelings. Facebook carried out an experiment in July 2014 when it doctored feeds of some users to spread unhappiness and proved that social media can affect how we feel. It can also make us feel that everyone else is having a better life than us; other people are hanging out with more cool friends, have more “stuff”, are more attractive to the opposite sex etc. This can make the vulnerable feel wretched. These types of thoughts may cause stress and continued ongoing stress can lead to depression. Read more about stress affects on teenagers
These symptoms may indicate depression, particularly when they last for more than two weeks:-
- Poor performance in school
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
- Anger and rage
- Overreaction to criticism
- Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
- Poor self-esteem or guilt
- Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
- Restlessness and agitation
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Substance abuse
- Problems with authority
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression. They may also express their depression through hostile, aggressive, risk-taking behavior. But such behaviors only lead to new problems, deeper levels of depression and destroyed relationships with friends, family, law enforcement or school officials.
Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming life-threatening and few adolescents seek help on their own. If depressed teens refuse treatment, it may be necessary for family members or other concerned adults to seek professional advice.
Therapy can help teens understand why they are depressed and learn how to cope with stressful situations. Depending on the situation, treatment may consist of individual, group or family counseling. Medications that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist may be necessary to help teens feel better.
Some of the most common and effective ways to treat depression in adolescents are:-
Psychotherapy provides teens an opportunity to explore events and feelings that are painful or troubling to them. Psychotherapy also teaches them coping skills.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps teens change negative patterns of thinking and behaving.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on how to develop healthier relationships at home and at school.
Medication relieves some symptoms of depression and is often prescribed along with therapy.
When depressed adolescents recognize the need for help, they have taken a major step toward recovery.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Pay attention to these warning signs:-
- Suicide threats, direct and indirect
- Obsession with death
- Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
- Giving away belongings
- Dramatic change in personality or appearance
- Irrational, bizarre behavior
- Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection
- Changed eating or sleeping patterns
- Severe drop in school performance
REMEMBER!!! These warning signs should be taken seriously. Obtain help immediately. Caring and support can save a young life.
Helping Suicidal Teens
Offer help and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their feelings. Listen, don’t lecture.
Trust your instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek prompt help. Break a confidence if necessary, in order to save a life.
Pay attention to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly!
Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life — family, friends and teachers.