The Growing Problem of Teenage Depression in Today's Society
Teenage depression is a growing problem in today's society and is often a major contributing factor for a multitude of adolescent problems. The statistics about teenage runaways, alcoholism, drug problems, pregnancy, eating disorders, and suicide are alarming. Even more startling are the individual stories behind these statistics because the young people involved come from all communities, all economic levels, and all home situations-anyone's family. The common link is often depression. For the individuals experiencing this crisis, the statistics become relatively meaningless. The difficult passage into adolescence and early adulthood can leave lasting scars on the lives and psyches of an entire generation of young men and women. There is growing realization that teenage depression can be life- changing, even life threatening.
Depression is a murky pool of feelings and actions scientists have been trying to understand since the days of Hippocrates, who called it a "black bile." It has been called "the common cold of mental illness and, like the cold, it's difficult to quantify. If feelings of great sadness or agitation last for much more than two weeks, it may be depression. For a long time, people who were feeling depressed were told to "snap out of it." According to a study done by National Institute of Mental Health, half of all Americans still view depression as a personal weakness or character flaw. Depression, however, is considered a medical disorder and can affect thoughts, feelings, physical health, and behaviors. It interferes with daily life such as school, friends, and family. Clinical depression is the most incapacitating of all chronic conditions in terms of social functioning.
Teenagers have always been vulnerable to depression for a variety of reasons. It's a confusing time of life because a teen's body is changing along with their relationships. Teenagers constantly vacillate between strivings for independence from family and regressions to childish dependence on it.
But today's teens face an additional challenge: They're growing up in a world quite different from that of their parent's youth. Adolescents today are faced with stresses that were unknown to previous generations and are dealing with them in an often self-destructive way. Contemporary society has changed the perception of teenagers. New parental lifestyles, combined with changes in the economy, often give less time and energy for parents to devote to their offspring. Society all too often views teens for what they can be instead of for who they are. Who they are becomes the identity of teenagers today. "They are confronted with the ambiguity of education, the dissolution of family, the hostile commercialism of society, and the insecurity of relationships." This identity is fragile and is threatened by fears of rejection, feelings of failure, and of being different. These...