Youth Mental Health
The Rise In Youth Mental Health Diagnoses
The kids aren’t alright.
Children today are growing up in a world that would look intense and strange to the children of older generations. Today’s youth faces a grown-up world with deeply adult problems. Sadly–but not entirely unsurprisingly–over the past decade, the diagnoses of mental health disorders amongst teens have nearly doubled.
Between 2005 and 2017, the rate of teenagers diagnosed with major depression increased by 52 percent. Currently, one in six children has an undiagnosed mental health disorder. Low energy, irritability, feelings of worthlessness and guilt or inclination toward self-harm define this condition. It is a suffocating illness that saps the joy from those afflicted.
But why the recent spike in diagnoses? The diagnostic criteria for depression have not changed.
Studies point towards a variety of potential factors: from social media use to the pressure to succeed in both the academic and extra-curricular realm, to the decline of unstructured playtime, kids face an increasing number of personal challenges on the path to adulthood.
But, like failing to wash your hands during flu season, those factors are merely heightened conditions for depression, not causes. Depression is a neurological disease with a strong genetic component. Families with a history of depression often produce depressed children. For years, the side-effects of the disease (suicide, substance abuse, disengagement) were understood as failings of character. Because of this, a misplaced stigma lingered around the disease. Thankfully, that stigma is on the way out.
With increased awareness surrounding the nature and symptoms of disease and frankly, the cultural understanding that depression is a disease is a hugely positive development. That being said, abstract talk about large cultural changes does little to ameliorate the situation of either those suffering from depression or their loved ones.
Depression diagnoses in youths can be complicated by the fact that many symptoms of depression can be ascribed to ‘typical teenage angst.’ This is an important pitfall to avoid. Fortunately, there are legions of trained counselors, therapists and psychiatrists who can guide families through a correct diagnosis and the healing process that follows.
Awareness is the first step. Thankfully, as a society, it’s a step we are taking.