The Fast Rise of Mental Illness in Teens

Mekiah Henning

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Since I was a kid, mental illness has been all around me. Whether it was in my family, at school, with my friends, on television, affecting celebrities, or even with myself, I’ve been exposed to all kinds of mental illnesses. However, I–as well as many others–have noticed a rise with mental illness diagnoses within the past few years. With this, suicide rates have gone up.

Recently, in January of 2018, researcher Jean Twenge led an investigation into the rise of mental illness in teens. She and her team focused on the increase of depression in adolescence. They connected it to the growth in social media use. The researchers found that teens, especially girls, who spent more time on the internet or social media were significantly more prone to having symptoms of depression and anxiety or suicidal thoughts and actions compared to those who spent their time on other activities such as sports, exercise, reading, hanging out with friends and family, and even doing their homework. They also added that the correlation between the two doesn’t necessarily mean causation. There was, however, a significant difference. As a teenager, I can see where social media use could lead to depressive thoughts.

Another article was written by Jim and Marilyn Folk for, within this article they discuss the rise of depression and anxiety in kids. They don’t try to link it to just one reason.They give multiple possible explanations such as increased parental pressure, growth in the use of social media and technology, and a rise in pressures in education, career, and financial performance. Among these reasons, they provide more links to the rise in mental illnesses, such as an increase in terrorist events and threats, more controversial news, a dramatic growth in violent TV programs, movies, and video games–which also causes more aggressive behavior and violence amongst teens. Social media pressure, and reduced face-to-face interactions and social support, can also be reasons for increased instances of mental illness and social anxiety. Other contributing factors include the breakdown of family, sexuallity or gender confusion, exposure to aggressive behavior such as abuse whether it’s physical or emotional, and mental or drug abuse (which has also seen an increase among teens). Their list goes on as to include poor and reduced sleep, pressure from parents financial income, reduced contact or recognition from parents and family, easy access to drugs of all types, and reduced expectations for teen success from past generations, teachers, or family. They explained that a combination of these things can lead to mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, along with the stress of school, a job or getting a driver’s license. Teens deal with many pressures and changes that can be harmful to their mental health.

Joe Sugarman, a researcher for Johns Hopkins, released an article in fall of 2018 addressing mental illnesses in kids, teens, and young adults. He stated that a lot of the recent increase actually isn’t that more kids are getting depressed. He connects it to the fact that more doctors are accepting that kids can have such serious mental illnesses and be diagnosed with them, whereas a few decades ago they didn’t think depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder could affect them because the patients are so young. Doctors used to blame it on their brain development and say that it was hormones or puberty. Sugarman said lots of things can lead to depression or anxiety, but there is no real cause that is true for every case. With some mental illnesses, patients can just have them in their genes – being born with a higher chance to develop them – such as ADHD, ADD, anxiety etc. Whether it’s genetics, stress, social media, a traumatic event, feeling pressured or a combination of it all – mental illness is affecting a lot of teens. And there are ways to help. These ways include; therapy, medication, exercise (mental and physical), counseling etc. you can research other ways if you think that you or someone you know has a mental illness.

Using all my sources I’ve found symptoms you can look for with friends, family, or yourself and others. Some symptoms and signs include; hyperactivity, easily bored, lack of focus, disinterest in things you/they once enjoyed, mood swings, anger issues (easily angered), aggression, drop in grades, drop in self esteem, often panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or actions and many more depending on the mental illness. You can do your own research on different mental illnesses if you’re concerned – I would recommend using the Johns Hopkins website for such research. If you recognize any of these symptoms within anyone then take whatever steps you feel necessary to help them or yourselves. Mental illness is serious and effects billions.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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