More than 1 in 20 US children and teens have anxiety or depression (Wolters Kluwer Health). Teenage depression and anxiety is one of America’s most prevalent issues that parents can’t seem to get a hold of. Students all over the nation are struggling day to day with this mental illness. Given how common this issue is, many students do not seek the help that they need out of fear of judgement or ridicule from fellow peers. However, many parents can not find the solution to the problem, yet the answer is right in the students and school communities. America needs to implement positive phrases and create a warmer atmosphere. In doing so, this will help students and adolescents have more positive experiences.
Depression, defined by UWSW National Library of Medicine, “is a psychiatric disorder that affects mood, behavior, and overall health”. Depression (also known as major depression or major depressive disorder) is a mental illness that affects people by inflicting feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and misery. In a study about the emotional response that relates with depression, it is stated that “The experience of depression is so extreme that it is reported as if the person or self is dying” (Rhodes & Smith 2010). In order to be diagnosed with this illness, patients “must have signs and symptoms nearly every day for at least 2 weeks” (Depression – Genetic Home Reference). This mental illness is not taken seriously in modern day, as the feelings of hopelessness and sadness are almost a common daily occurrence. When it comes to depression, the difference between the “ups and downs that are just part of being a teenager and teen depression” (Teen Depression 2017) can make all the difference.
Many students are depressed but do not tell an adult or seek help. Sadly, many students do not know that the depression experienced is “anxiety 65 percent of the time” (Goldsmith 2009). Anxiety is the feeling of constant worry and stress. When diagnosed with depression, it is not uncommon to also be diagnosed with anxiety. According to an article from Time Magazine, Faith-Ann recalls her feelings of ‘It makes the world very quiet for a few seconds . . . For a while I didn’t want to stop, because it was my only coping mechanism. I hadn’t learned any other way’ (Schrobsdorff 2016). This example illuminates the inner thoughts and feelings of a woman dealing with both anxiety and depression. Sadly, these are the feelings of many teens around the nation. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “In 2015, about 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode in the past year” (Schrobsdorff 2016). Considering that the total population of teens in the world is about 13.2 percent (Office of Adolescent Health 2018), this is a lot of teenagers suffering with mental illness.
The history of adolescent depression and anxiety is said to come from the evolutionary ancestors of society. According to Psychology Today, “an ancestral environment different from the one we face today shaped the structure and function of our brains” (Pelusi 2003). Due to these different environments and different scenarios that the ancestors had to deal with, traits that were vital to them are affecting the modern generations differently. The article also comments about the effects of evolutionistic ancestors that had “an evolved mechanism of distress telling us to hibernate, escape or change something?” (Pelusi 2003). This affects how people are dispositioned to react in certain ways to the modern dilemmas presented. However, depression can be caused by a number of things. A lot of the causes are influenced by environment, childhood memories, and other events in person. In a scientific journal researching “Perceived Social Competence, Negative Social Interactions and Negative Cognitive Style Predict Depressive Symptoms during Adolescence”, the scientist’s research concluded that “negative interactions with parents . . . partially mediated the relationship between perceived social competence and depressive symptoms” (Lee, Adabel, et al. 2010).
This presents the issues of family homelife, poor living environments, and abusive parents. However, even the common day meeting and interactions with parents can cause distress and sadness in their teens. The environments that adolescence live in can range from a healthy family to an abusive household. Negative interactions and bad experiences can stick with children through the “developmental process” (Raskin 2018). Another common hearing is depression often is “run in families”, yet research shows that depression “does not have a clear pattern of inheritance in families” (Depression – Genetics Home Reference – NIH 2018). Although family members are not necessarily the first cause, depression can affect the whole family. Because depression can not just be pinned on genes, there is a lot of variables when it comes to the causes. Yet, depression has been on the rise in the past century and many people are baffled at the numbers. In a report done by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the data showed that “ 2.6 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 were diagnosed with major depression in 2016, a 63 percent increase from 1.6 percent in 2013” (Fox 2018). Some people say this is due to differences in schools or parents but there is another major issue that is responsible for the giant rise.
A major influence that is affecting many teenagers today is the manipulation of social media. Sadly, there are far too many reports from teenagers that claim that utilizing social media often causes teens to “feel lonely frequently” (Raskin 2018). This feeling is one of many feelings that adolescents go through daily. Including loneliness, adolescents who have depression and anxiety can feel “hopeless or empty . . . low self-esteem . . . worthlessness or guilt” (Teen Depression 2017). Heartbreakingly, these are some of the more common or less harmful symptoms. Feeling these emotions for long periods of time can worsen the symptoms to ideas as harmful as cutting or suicidal thoughts and actions. In a Time Magazine, Faith-Ann Bishop shares a heart wrenching story about her struggles with depression and anxiety and how it eventually led to her struggle with cutting and self harm. Cutting and self harm were her “compulsive manifestation[s] of the depression and anxiety” (Schrobsdorff 2016). Within the media soaked world, these serious illnesses and diseases are romanticized and are called works of art and beauty instead of a plea for help. On social media, it is not uncommon to see comments like “Those cuts are so artistic, I wish I could decorate my body like you” (Prentice 2018).
Society is “portraying mental illness as something lighthearted” (Prentice 2018) and it seems that no matter the effort, the illnesses are pushed off. Students are not receiving the help they need because of this. This is the lead cause for the rise in suicide. If these issues are not dealt with seriously and immediately, teenagers go helpless and result to the worst. Although it may seem helpless, there are ways to improve and help fight against depression.
Due to the poor environments and experiences teens often carry when dealing with depression, many teenagers develop a negative, closed mindset. With the help of negative feelings linked with social media and the romanticism of depression and anxiety, it is no wonder why students often feel hopeless and alone. However, as a nation, the solution can be easily implemented through the power of positive thinking and positivity awareness. Happiness is “building new habits, patterns and routines of happiness . . . taking action to be happy” ( Feeley 2015). Sadly, this is not common knowledge to everyone, especially teenagers struggling with depression and anxiety.
A practical way to instill these positive interactions is to subtly make a simple change when talking to others. As one continues to slowly talk more positively during conversations, the normal attitude of “I want to die” (Prentice 2018) will slowly disappear. Plus, if these small actions are implemented in schools and between friends, all of a sudden the school becomes a safer place for its students. The bullying would decrease significantly and kindness would be spread in the world. Although this seems like a cheesy fantasy, it is a practical way to prevent the depression caused by negative interactions with peers, family members, and complete strangers. Because depression and anxiety is a mental illness, there is no definite way to cure it. However, through more positive tones and speeches, society can grow into a more welcoming, happy community for those who suffer with depression and anxiety.
In starting this process of given solution, one mainstream way to deliver information would be through social media. Social media allows the messages to not only be seen by depressed teens, but also be seen by the teenage population all over. Because the positive messages and awareness would be seen by all teens, the teens would be able to become knowledgeable and proactive in the daily tasks which one does. Interactions that induce positive feelings and emotions are an “important role for positive social relationship” (Steger & Kashdan 2009). Positive social relationships can provide support, care, and a mental helper for an adolescent who has depression and anxiety. It is understood that all kinds of depression and anxiety will not be solved by one solution. However, in instilling this solution, the rate and percentages of depression will be lowered. More people will be able to overcome the “hopeless or empty . . . low self-esteem . . . worthlessness or guilt” (Teen Depression 2017). These methods will provide more attainable and safer “coping mechanisms” (Schrobsdorff 2016). This is the way to start a change and implant more kindness into the world This will also hopefully provide a safer space and more support to those who struggle with depression and anxiety.
Even though the solution provided helps the issue of depression and anxiety, it does not solve all the mental illnesses and varieties of depression. In an ideal world, the solution presented would solve all types and issues that come with anxiety and depression. However, the only plausible and practical solution is to build up the positivity in general conversation daily. One plausible fault of the execution of this solution, is using the platform of social media. Because many students who deal with depression often turn to social media as a comfort, the most effective tool to stop depression would be executed through the disappearance of social media all together. However, in a NBC article, DrW Laurel Williams, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, states “I wouldn’t say that social media is responsible for a rise in depression — more the being rushed and lack of connections that we have in the structure of how we live lives now” (Fox 2018). This alternative fact contradicts the whole argument of depression and anxiety. Because social media tends to be a go to place to shut down, it allows people to lose positive social interactions with real people. This not only harms communities, but it also hurts families and friends.
Nevertheless, if positive messages that promote positive social interaction appear on the screens, then the messages will reach those who are shutting down. One way to prevent these illnesses from becoming dangerous and harmful is for the depressed to “Reach out for friendship and social support” (Teen Depression 2017) and find it through the solutions presented. With positive messages combatting “romanticizing mental illness” (Prentice 2018). With the help and support of fellow peers and parents, positive interactions can change the lives of those suffering from depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety affects over 10 percent of the nation’s population. This impending issue is romanticized and roots from many different variables. However, through social media, usually a main cause for depression, students and peers will receive more positive messages and proactive, encouraging quotes. As the quotes and messages continue through the media streams, more and more kids will be able to put into place habits of positive conversations and interactions. Globally, this concept could easily change the world. Due to the easy accessibility of the internet across the world, not only will students be able to connect nationally, it will also allow global support and interactions to support students.
The more students that support and share positive messages with peers, the more awareness and support can be given to those who struggle with depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses. Through the power of positive thoughts and actions, depression rates will lower as the feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and loneliness drift away. From the wise words of a man who struggled with anxiety and depression, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world – Robin Williams”.