Depression and its Toll on High School Students

By Evie Melvin

According to The Merriam Webster Dictionary, depression is described as “a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.” Depression can affect anyone at any time, but the numbers of depressed teenagers has risen over time. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “an estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2016. This number represents 12.8 percent of the US population in that age group.” That was in 2016; now being 2019, the times and numbers have changed.

How do you know if you are depressed?

According to Katie Hurley of psycom.net, “in children and adolescents, the mood is more likely to present as irritable than sad.” These two symptoms are not the only ones though. Other symptoms can be, according to Katie Hurley of psycom.net,

  • Angry outbursts and irritability

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities (sports, interests, even sexual activity)

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain due to changes in appetite

So why are teenagers these days depressed?

There are many reasons that stand out in the teenage community. Some of those being at home problems, and others simply being stressed from work or sports. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), what they discovered is that “social media is a primary source of anxiety and pressure for adolescents. According to one undercover student, teens become depressed when they compare. And teens often compare their lives to the people they follow on social media.” The social image of how life should be is causing students to become more depressed than usual. One might think, that social media is always the problem in these cases, but there are more things that lead teens to become depressed.

One of the bigger ones is bullying. According to Jennifer McClellan, of USATODAY.com, “A third of students say they were bullied last school year, according to a report released today by non-profit group YouthTruth. That’s an increase from two years ago, when just over one in four students had been.” That article was published in 2018. The numbers are crazy.

There are still many others such as, home life and relationships. Teenagers these day do not know how to handle relationships. Some come from an awful home life and learn from their parents about how relationships are supposed to be. If this is the case, what if one of the parents is completely dependant on the other and would not “survive” without them? This teaches the children to think that having a significant other is the most important thing, and or if their partner leaves they have nothing left. Which in turn can lead to depression.

Why is recognizing depression so important?

Depression is considered a mental illness. According to Tom Wootton of psychology.com, “depression is resistance to what is. Depression is physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relationship, and career/financial pain.” It is important because it not only is a disorder but can cause physical damage as well. Depression can change the way your brain functions, because your emotions are running wild. According to WebMd.com, “Depression affects much more than moods. These are a few of the most common physical symptoms of depression:

  • Increased aches and pains, which occur in about two out of three people with depression

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Decreased interest in sex

  • Decreased appetite

  • Insomnia, lack of deep sleep, or oversleeping

Letting these symptoms go can ultimately hurt the person more and more; it could lead them to suicide even. It is important because according to Leonard Holmes of verywellmind.com, “depression and suicide are linked, with an estimate that up to 60 percent of people who commit suicide have major depression.” Suicide will never be a joke, and that is why recognizing depression is so important.

What can we do to help those who have depression?

Helping those that are depressed can in turn help them learn that suicide is not the answer. Though this may seem small in the moment, it can lead to saving someone’s life. Some things you can do as a friend is talk to them, let them know you are concerned, and help them understand what their options are. Some cases of depression are too extreme for friends to handle. If this is your case, seeking help from a professional is wise.

If you are experiencing anything like the things mentioned above, please reach out. Let someone help you through this time. DO NOT think suicide is an option or a way out because it is not and never will be. You may think that ending your pain that way will work, but it will jumpstart someone else's. If you feel alone and are thinking of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.