Recent studies conducted in 2021 in the US paint a horrifying picture: 42% of adolescents felt sad and depressed, and 22% of these school-going children considered suicide.
An Urgent Matter
These figures should ring alarm bells for parents and caregivers. In the US alone, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.
From school shootings by disgruntled students to suicide, depression, and bullying, the average American teen is struggling to stay healthy and, more importantly, happy.
One study conducted by the researchers found that 30% of students who are in high school report having mental health issues.
While the problem of teens having mental health problems, including stress, depression, etc., existed even before the pandemic, it seems that COVID-19 and the resulting isolation and stress have made their mental health worse.
What’s wrong with America’s youth?
While many steps are being taken to highlight the importance of mental health in schools and homes, it is important to understand what is bothering and impacting the mental health of the average American teen.
As it is, the teenage years are a difficult time. Apart from the pressure to perform well in school, many high school kids also have to deal with the difficulties of teenage hormones and their social status—peer pressure, fitting in, bullying, negative body image, and even their self-worth.
All these factors come into play and affect young people’s mental health, which in turn impacts how they think and act.
Their mental health then impacts their everyday lives, including their performance in school, their behavior towards others, and their relationships with friends and family.
Social Media Is a Contributor
Unfortunately, social media allows teens to stay connected with their peers even after high school is over. But how can staying in touch with their friends be a con?
One study found that these new ways of connecting made accessible by social media have led to increased mental illnesses in children. Social platforms like TikTok and Instagram allow children to stay connected with each other and with celebrities or “influencers” they like and look up to.
In a way, the internet allows these children to glimpse into the lives of practically everyone else on the globe, from celebrities to their high school crush, given that they share their filtered lives online. This, in turn, allows them to feel connected to these people.
These connections are called “parasocial interactions” a phenomenon where someone believes they know the other person and is close friends with them because they follow them online. These could include a celebrity or even a peer the teenager doesn’t know or is friends with in real life.
However, these supercharged parasocial interactions are taxing for a maturing child, and experts believe that they can worsen pre-existing mental health conditions.
The need for likes and approval on social media platforms also causes depression and low self-esteem while also exposing them to cyberbullying.
Treatment For Their Mental Health
It seems Gen Z is battling real mental health disorders, and the statistics show how little is being done to help them. The study showed that 15% of American teens were treated for mental health disorders.
A closer look revealed that among those who were treated, boys were more likely to be prescribed medications, while young girls were more likely to opt for therapy or counseling.
Unfortunately, according to the most recent data, very few struggling teens get access to treatment and therapy. Those who explored treatment or talked about their mental health issues felt there was still a stigma around the subject and were treated differently.
Recognizing Its Signs
While the good news is that parents are more informed on the subject, there are signs that they can look for to help them understand how their child is doing.
These signs include changes in eating habits, social relationships, and sleep patterns. A dip in grades, a lack of interest in activities, and even self-harm can all be a silent cry for help.
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This article was produced by TPR Teaching.
Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.