Since the advent of the teenager in the late 1950’s the idea of the teenage years has been in constant change. Before this time there were only children and adults, as children were carefully groomed and prepared for the life of an adult without such a transition. The invention, so to speak, of the teenager is a product of changing times in America. With the decades that came after however and the various pressures and expectations that were heaped upon teenagers, those changes began to take their toll. With so many different factors to consider in their daily lives, many teenagers easily fall into the trap of depression.
Back in the late 1950’s when the role of the teenager was still developing stressors that could affect the mood and health of a teen were still present, but were far different and less noticed as in the present day. Over the decades that followed teens began to experience their own particular set of issues and stressors that targeted their age range and development, and began to identify as teenage problems rather than child or adult concerns. Whether related to school or personal life, the issues that began to develop in the life of a common teenager swiftly became problems that affected their mental state in such a way that depression became a very real part of teenage life.
Stuck in a period of transition from child to adult, teenagers are already bombarded with
an untold number of pressures that are at times considered insurmountable. Adding more to the
uncertain mix only brings greater stress and without proper guidance can eventually lead to a
breakdown that can cause depression and feelings of frustration, anger, and even self-destructive
tendencies. For some the pressures are manageable as they either find solace in friends, family,
or other parts of their lives that offer some type of reprieve. For those who do not have the
family or friends or even the otherwise calm environment the stress can become unmanageable
in a much shorter period of time. The effect of this however can vary in how it is displayed and when.
There are a great many factors that can lead a teenager into depression, though part of
this is due to the changes that are occurring within their bodies as they continue to develop. From peer pressure to hormone levels that change constantly during this stage in life, teens are at times seemingly never completely happy or satisfied (Krans, 2012). While some can bring themselves out of this condition many are still considered to be under a deep depression that can’t just be pushed past. Depression is not something that anyone can just will away. If not treated in time or in a proper manner any one factor that leads to depression could worsen the problem and lead to eventual breakdown, or suicide.
Depression can be felt over something as seemingly unimportant as a test grade or a damaged relationship with a friend, or any of a thousand issues that teenagers are subjected to in their daily lives. There is no shortage of factors that can lead a teenager into the dangerous downward spiral that is depression, though the signs that can be read are sometimes not as prevalent as some would believe. Those who are depressed are often withdrawn from activities, other people, and their environment in general. They do not seek to interact with others, often spend a great deal of time in seclusion, and are sullen and withdrawn more often than not.
Suicide for most people is considered a cry for help or an implied threat that may or may not be serious. In the case of far too many teens this threat is carried out because it is seen as the last option to escape whatever pressure drove them to such extremes. While there are many reasons why a teenager would commit suicide, there are only a few that shared any commonality with each other. Most of those have to do with social matters that to a teenager are quite important at that stage in their lives. Peer pressure, sports, academics, relationships, and associated factors can be very important deciding factors in the life of a teenager. Without proper guidance and understanding many teenagers fail to see a way out of the depression in
which they find themselves, and will do what is deemed necessary to escape the pain they feel.
At-risk teens, those who are routinely subjected to dangerous and/or life-threatening conditions at home, in school, or elsewhere in their lives, are typically the most susceptible to outside influences that can affect mood and behavior (Borowksy, Taliaferro, McMorris, 2013). In the case of many who suffer through such conditions, the warning signs are a constant and rapidly deteriorating condition that can go unnoticed as often as it is recognized. There have been various reports that have revealed that many teens can and will harbor suicidal feelings all the way through their high school years into early college (Osborne, 2007). Some leave diaries, some leave nothing at all, but no matter what is left, felt, or otherwise displayed, each and every teen who is at risk for depression and suicidal tendencies is at their most crucial point reaching out for someone, to establish any point of contact that might allow them to feel normal and wanted.
Suicide is a very touchy subject for many as its ramifications involve not only the pain that the affected individual is going through, but that of the family members and friends that must watch their deterioration. Very little if anything ever tends to get through to a teenager who is suffering depression, and the result is that they sink deeper and deeper until they believe there is nothing else that can be done to ease their pain. While there are methods by which parents and friends can in fact help the affected individuals, they are still not guaranteed to prevent a relapse or even work initially. Cognitive behavior therapy, which is essentially building up the confidence of an individual through therapy sessions, is one of two largely practiced methods by which to combat depression (Campo & Bridge, 2009). The other, less attractive method for many is that of the pharmaceutical route, which can involve steady doses of anti-depressants and other medication designed to combat the chemical imbalances in an individual’s brain that can
cause or facilitate depression.
The list of antidepressants is quite long and many medications come with side effects that are considered too harmful or otherwise inconvenient to take the risk. Some are considered more effective than others, such as Cymbalta, Paxil, and Lexapro, but even these come with side effects such as drowsiness, headaches, irritable bowels, and other such symptoms that are often very harmful and disruptive to a teenager’s life. Taken in moderate amounts they are quite
helpful, but the most serious downside to any medication is the question as to whether it is habit-
forming or not. On the upside however, antidepressants are not widely known to be an addictive drug that the body will crave once they are discontinued.
While such measures are taken often and expected to work, the dependency caused by medicinal treatment, while successful in many cases, can also make matters worse. Cognitive-behavior therapy is a more preferred method but is still no guarantee against depression and eventual suicide. Taken together the two methods are often seen to bring about at least a moderate amount of success in the repression, not the elimination, of suicidal tendencies and the depression that led to such thoughts. Despite this such measures are the only real methods by which depression can be combated and eventually evened out. Depression never truly goes away as it can leave an emotional scar that remains with the psyche as a reminder of what happened and how events were allowed to reach such a level (Bakalar, 2001). What is important however is that the treatment, whichever is selected, is followed and monitored by a designated therapist.
There are thousands of teens that either try or succeed in the act of suicide each year in
the United States. To date suicide has been deemed the third highest cause for those in the mid
teens to early twenties (Bakalar, 2001). This is a statistic that can be easily attributed to issues stemming from the mental health of an individual, such as anxiety, drug abuse, or depression. Such individuals may very well have an increasingly difficult time of managing their behaviors in a school setting or even at home and with friends. The factors for every teen vary, but are typically related to the most stressful points in their lives that have yet to be successfully reconciled.
The act of suicide is not always planned out, though it does become a vague and often considered solution that is left as an option. Some teens have gone so far as to try such a thing after a particularly painful moment in their lives, but have been unable to follow through with the process for one reason or another. Those who have actually attempted suicide and failed despite their best efforts have often been known to state that they did not see any other option at the time. For every teen that thinks about suicide very few ever go through with the act, but that number is still quite high. Often those who do manage to commit suicide are victims of severe mood disorders that can affect both behavior and mood.
Roughly one out of every eight teenagers fights a constant war with depression (Berlinger, 2006). Sadly many of those they interact with will never know or even recognize the warning signals, and will eventually only come to realize the depths of the depression when it is too late. With proper medication, therapy, and monitoring, it is possible to at least alleviate some
of the pressure that teens feel in their everyday lives. School counselors, therapists, and even
teachers, coaches, and parents can be a great help to a teenager suffering from depression, but each and every individual involved must be diligent as well as learned in the manner of how such an affliction can affect an individual. Depression is not just a state of mind, and must be treated like the illness it is.
Bakalar, Nicholas. (2001). Understanding Teenage Depression: A Guide to Diagnosis,
Treatment, and Management. New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks.
Berlinger, Norman T., M.D. (2006). Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression. New York, NY:
William Morrow Paperbacks.
Borowsky, I.W.; Taliaferro, L.A.; McMorris, B.J. (2013). Suicidal thinking and behavior among
youth involved in verbal and social bullying: risk and protective factors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(1): p4-12.
Campo, J.V., M.D.; Bridge, J.A., Ph.D. (2009). Treatment of Youth Depression. The American
Journal of Psychiatry, 166(9): p958-960.
Krans, Brian. (2012). Adolescent Depression. Healthline. Retrieved from
Osborne, Millie, M.D. (2007). The Inner World of a Suicidal Youth: What Every Parent and
Health Professional Should Know. Westport, CT: Praeger’s.