More than other problems they encounter, today’s teens believe anxiety and depression are the biggest challenges their peers face. That’s the finding of a Pew Research Center report published last month.
In a survey of 1,000 teenagers, 13-17, 70 percent of respondents feel that anxiety and depression are major problems for people their age in the community where they live. That compares to just 55 percent for bullying, 51 percent for drug addiction, 45 percent for alcohol use, 40 percent for poverty, 34 percent for teen pregnancy, and 33 percent for gangs.
Teen depression has been increasing in recent years. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found the percentage of adolescents suffering major depressive episodes has risen from 8.7 in 2005 to 11.3 in 2014.
What might be some of the factors contributing to the growth of anxiety and depression in this age group? The Pew study also asked teens about the kinds of pressure they feel. Academic performance is number one with 61 percent reporting they feel much pressure to get good grades. That’s compared to 29 percent who feel pressured to look good, 28 percent who need to fit in socially, and 21 percent feeling pressured to join extracurricular activities and excel at sports.
Is your teenager depressed? Here are some signs and symptoms compiled by HealthGuide:
What can a parent do to help a depressed child? Some tips:
- Communicate with your teen: Listen, don’t lecture. Be gentle, but persistent. Acknowledge his or her feelings. And if s/he won’t open up to you, try getting help from a trusted third party, such as a school counselor or therapist.
- Encourage social connections: Talk to your teen every day. Help her stay connected to friends and family members. Suggest extracurricular activities s/he might enjoy, especially a volunteer job helping others.
- Encourage physical well-being. Help your teen exercise every day, eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep. Limit time spent with electronic devices.
- Seek professional help when depression is severe. Involve your child in choosing a specialist or treatment. Consider all the options and don’t be pushed into using antidepressants which come with particular risks and side-effects for teens.