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3 Reasons Why Depression is on the Rise Among American Teens

The teenage years are one of the most exciting phases of a person’s life. It’s a time when people embark on a journey of self-discovery and explore their passion, interests, and identity. 

In this transition phase, teenagers experience a whirlwind of emotions as they navigate the complexities of adolescence. It’s normal for your teen to feel moody, down, or sad. These feelings do not last for long. However, if your teen has been sad or irritable for more than two weeks, they might be depressed.

Depression Among American Teens

You might be surprised to learn that teen depression is on the rise in the U.S. Mental Health America’s (MHA) 2023 survey revealed that 11.5% or more than 2.7 million older teens experienced severe major depression.

This begs the question, “what is contributing to depression in American teens”? Well, there are many factors; we’ll discuss the common ones here:

#1 Academic Pressure

The unrealistic pressure to perform well academically is a source of stress for adolescents, and it often results in anxiety and depression.

A study recently conducted by a University College London researcher discovered a link between mental health issues and academic pressure among those in middle adolescence. The study revealed that stress-related emergency admissions were the highest during term time and the lowest during holidays. 

Academic pressure doesn’t always lead to improved test grades and better scores. It, instead, will cause your teenage child to sacrifice their sleep and leisure activities. This will take a toll on their mental health, fueling depression. 

Moreover, the constant juggling between extracurricular activities, homework, and social obligations leaves little room for relaxation and self-care. As a result, your teen may experience chronic stress, anxiety, and burnout, laying the groundwork for depression to take root. 

You can help your teen cope with academic pressure by setting realistic expectations alongside achievable academic goals. You can also help them develop healthy study habits using active learning techniques or study aids like flashcards. 

#2 Social Media Overload

The advent of social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook has transformed the way we communicate and connect with people. But it has also introduced a host of challenges, especially for teenagers. 

Excessive use of ​​social media seriously harms your mental health. But do you know that your teen is also at risk of mental health issues? Social media platforms—especially Instagram and Snapchat—feature seemingly perfect pictures of people. Those pictures aren’t original but taken using filters or edited with photo editing tools. 

Your teenage child, however, doesn’t understand that, causing them to create unrealistic beauty standards. This breeds feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, resulting in depression. The quantification of popularity through likes, followers, and comments has stimulated a competitive environment. This has resulted in a myriad of mental health issues, including depression. 

Cyberbullying—or harassing and threatening teens online—can also lead to depression in kids. The findings of a 2022 study revealed that victims of cyberbullying are at high risk of depressive symptoms as well as suicidal thoughts. 

You can help your teen improve their mental health and well-being by reducing their time on social media. TruLaw advises setting specific time limits for social media use. Your teen should not spend more than one to two hours per day on social media. 

#3 Bullying

Cyberbullying has been on the rise, but that doesn’t put an end to traditional bullying. In the U.S., bullying is prevalent. 

CDC’s recent publication revealed that one in every five high school students was bullied on school property. About 40% of students who identified themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual experienced bullying more than others. 

Whether bullying manifests as physical aggression, verbal abuse, or cyberbullying, the impact on victims can be profound and long-lasting. Bullying not only results in physical injuries, but also increases the risk of depression and anxiety. 

Peer-inflicted insults, taunts, and social rejection can damage self-esteem and instill sentiments of worthlessness in teens. The fear of getting humiliated further prevents victims of bullying from retaliating. This only intensifies their feelings of despair, resulting in or exacerbating depression. 

Teach your teen how to handle bullying by practicing scenarios at home. This will help them develop assertiveness and confidence in dealing with difficult situations. You must also advise them to ignore the bullies. However, this tactic might not always work. That is why you must suggest they reach out to a teacher or the school counselor. 

To wrap things up, teenage depression is on the rise in the U.S., and these are some factors contributing to it. 

If your teen exhibits feelings of sadness, anger or hopelessness, or an irritable mood, there is a high possibility they are suffering from depression. As a parent, you must make an effort to help them cope with this mental disorder. 

In severe cases, your child might require professional help, so don’t hesitate to see a mental health expert. Bear in mind that the sooner your teen receives treatment, the better the chances for their recovery and overall well-being.