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Depression On The Rise In Young Teens: How Can We Help?

Depression On The Rise In Young Teens: How Can We Help? via Babble

I often wonder how our teen years would have been different if we grew up attached to social media?

Our teens are depressed, no doubt about it. Most of us remember the self-consciousness and self-doubt that ravaged us as teens. There wasn’t as much therapy or medication available to teens in the 80s as there is now, and there wasn’t as much awareness either. Yet with all the improvements made in our lifetimes, it seems as more adolescents are becoming depressed.

New figures put out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, taken from the 2008 to 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health says that teen “girls suffer from depression at a rate nearly three times that of boys their age” and “between the ages of 12 and 15, the percentage of girls experiencing depression triples.”

The Huffington Post reports “the percentage of girls who reported experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year jumped from 5 to 15 percent respectively.” 1.4 million girls between ages 12 and 17 experienced a depressive episode within the last year, which is characterized by “a period of two weeks or longer during which teens experienced a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure, along with other changes in day-to-day functioning, like a loss of sleep or appetite or changes in concentration.”

But is that because girls are feeling more depressed or because they are feeling less inhibited about speaking up and asking for help? And are the boys doing just the opposite?

We have come so incredibly far in the progress of women becoming who they want to be over the last 50 years, but it seems that we need to do a better job in allowing ourselves to believe we are all good enough and it starts with our young girls.

Adolescent years are tumultuous even on good days. These numbers do not surprise me, but I also wonder what is the best way to help our teens? I don’t think medication is always the answer; too many doctors are entirely too eager to use a medication rather than help kids work through their problems.

Sometimes, just knowing that others are going through the same thing as you are helps immensely. You know lately how many shows and magazines ask women about what they would say to their 15-year-old self? If you notice, more often than not, the writers, moms and even celebrities (who seem to have perfect lives) will do two things when asked that question. The first thing they do is get quietly reflective and even sad, just recalling that period in their life. Then they say something along the lines of “I would say you are good enough” or “You’re fine just the way you are” or “Everything will be ok.” Those sentiments are exactly what I would have told my teen self, too. And they are what I tell my own girls now.

Social media and technology have fostered an even larger arena for self-doubt to creep up in teens, and a playground for one-upness, as in everyone seems to be having more fun, more popularity and more general happiness than you. And those false notions are damaging for all involved, the girls who feel they have to put it up there online to feel good about themselves and the girls who are reading it and silently comparing themselves. It has also created a cowardly way to attack and bully other girls online and as we all know girls bully with words much more often than fists.

We have come so incredibly far in the progress of women becoming who they want to be over the last 50 years, but it seems that we need to do a better job in allowing ourselves to believe we are all good enough and it starts with our young girls.

And then on the other hand, isn’t part of being human and certainly a teen (with erratic hormone surges and growth spurts) sometimes feeling sad? Not to the point of where we can’t function but I’d say that we have all had our times where we were wholeheartedly depressed. Maybe to the point of where we just go through the functions of our day because we have to. Then we eventually come out of the funk we’re in, often through the help of a friend or family member who understands and cares enough to help us get through it.  I’m not talking about those who are clinically depressed, but certainly sadness is a part of all of our lives sometimes.

If we can help our young girls by letting them know that although life can be tough and you might feel sad sometimes, no matter how depressed or distraught you might feel, just know that you are enough, you are perfect the way you are, and you don’t need to change any part of you for anyone else…ever, then just maybe we can help. Share our stories from when we were young and distraught ourselves and how much those feelings do fade away. The popular saying “It gets better” has been used a lot lately and it’s one that can be said for all teens. Eventually, you do grow up, leave high school and do what you want in life. Those mean girls and insecure feelings don’t last forever. It does actually get better.

What do you think is the best way to foster positive self esteem in our girls? Why are we failing at it? How much of social media is responsible for it? And the big question: isn’t being depressed every now and then just part of being a teen, and even more intriguing, just part of being human?

Image: iStock

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