Depression and teen suicide

The mental health of people in the United States of America especially teens and young adults has declined dramatically since the late 2000s. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology published a new study that found that the rates of depression among kids aged 14 to 17 increased by more than 60 percent between 2009 and 2017. The rates roughly doubled among those aged 20 and 21, and the increases were nearly as steep among those aged between 12 and 13 (47 percent) and aged between 18 and 21 (46 percent).


In the latest year, 2017, for which federal data is available, more than 12.5 percent of people, aged between 12 and 25 experienced a major depressive episode, according to the study. When the data on suicides, attempted suicides, and ‘serious psychological distress’ (a term applied to people who score high on a test that measures feelings of nervousness, sadness, and hopelessness) were analyzed by researchers, the same trends held.


The rates of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts among young people all increased significantly. According to Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, a significant cause of anguish for today's teenagers is the growth of smartphones and digital media like texting, social media, online bullying, and gaming. While older adults also use these technologies, their adoption was much faster among younger people and more complete, and the impact of these technologies on their lives was much more significant.


While some evidence is inconsistent, substantial research has found associations between poor mental health outcomes and high social media usage among adolescents and young adults. Researchers, parents, guidance counselors, teachers, and others who work with young people and teenagers say that heavy technology use and social media are a problem.


Other experts have pointed out that while there certainly are some stress factors that are inherent in social media use, there are other factors at play here as well. Potential factors such as increased competition to get into college and 'parent hovering' have been listed in this context. Almost 10.7 percent of all teens and 29.9 percent of high school students are affected by teenage depression, while 17 percent of high school students have contemplated suicide. Teenage depression is often linked to moodiness, hormonal imbalances, or teenage rebellion – which is why it is frequently left untreated or is ignored. When left untreated, depression can be very damaging.


The essence of an adolescent's personality can be destroyed by depression, resulting in despair, anger, or an overwhelming sense of sadness. Experts believe that it is probably the cumulative impact of a lot of things instead of just one thing. Although historical statistics either don't exist or aren't compared to current measures, there is data on youth suicide going back several decades. The CDC report shows that the suicide rates among young people after declining between 1999 and 2017 jumped to 56 percent between 2007 and 2016.


It has been noticed that suicide attempts among younger children are often impulsive and are usually associated with feelings of self-doubt, the pressure to succeed, loss, disappointment, and financial uncertainty. Suicidal feelings and depression are treatable mental disorders. The adolescent or child needs to have their illness diagnosed and recognized and appropriately treated with a comprehensive treatment plan. Most thoughts have suicide, and suicidal attempts are associated with depression. Additionally, other risk factors include:

  • A family history of suicide attempts.

  • Exposure to violence.

  • Impulsiveness.

  • Disruptive behavior or aggression.

  • Bullying.

  • Access to weapons.

  • Feeling hopeless/helpless.

  • A rejection or acute loss.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, the warning signs associated with suicide include:

  • Changes in sleeping habits or eating.

  • Pervasive or frequent sadness.

  • Withdrawal from regular activities, friends, and family.

  • Complaining frequently about physical symptoms related to emotions. For example, fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, etc.

  • A decline in schoolwork quality.

  • Preoccupation with death and dying.

  • Reckless behavior.

Although people often feel uncomfortable talking about suicide, asking your child or adolescent if they are thinking about suicide or are depressed, it can be helpful. Depression can be very damaging and might result in suicidal ideation if left untreated. It is essential to open up a dialogue in an honest and non-judgemental way if you suspect that your teen is depressed. Asking questions can provide them with the assurance that somebody cares and will give the child the chance and space to talk about their problems.


The simple act of communicating face-to-face can play a vital role in bettering a teen's mental health. A parent's support can make all the difference in their recovery. Parents, friends, and teachers should always err on the side of caution. Any adolescent or child with suicidal plans or thoughts should be evaluated immediately by a qualified and trained mental health professional.

Image Credits: Getty Images

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