Mental Health in U.S. Teens Worsens


Taliyah Cintron

In the last decade, teenagers in America have had more mental health issues such as depression and anxiety than in any other country, according to Alice G. Walton, writing in The Atlantic. Mental health is a public concern for Americans of every age, but concerns about school shootings, cyberbullying, and many other issues make being a teenager in the United States increasingly difficult.

Approximately 20 percent of American teens battle an emotional well-being issue, most generally anxiety or depression, and according to the World Health Organization, the numbers are getting increasingly worse.

“People are afraid of mental illness,” says Jennifer Havens, a professor of child and teenage psychiatry at the University School of Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. Havens adds, “Adolescents commonly have symptoms for like five to seven years before they get treatment for depression.”

According to the WHO, various physical, emotional, and social changes, as well as poverty and abuse, can make youths powerless against emotional wellness issues. Elements that can add to worry during youth include a craving for more independence, a strain to adjust to peers, investigation of sexual identity, and expanded access to and use of drugs.

“Cultural trends in the last 10 years may have had a larger effect on mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes among younger generations compared with older generations, given that the increase in mental health issues was sharpest after 2011″ said Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, author of the book iGen.

Twenge thinks these issues aren’t because of hereditary qualities or financial misfortunes, but are more likely because of abrupt social changes, such as how teenagers and young adults invest their energy outside of work and school. Not having enough time to oneself is especially detrimental to developing teens.

This is illustrated by Santa Fe High freshman Luke Beingessner-Chavez, who works two jobs, runs track and field, and is nearly a straight-A student. He says “Jeez, man, school has me stressed no cap.” With all those accomplishments, he is overworked.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health is a study that has followed drug and alcohol use, psychological wellness, and other well-being issues in young people in the United States since 1971. This study of approximately 200,000 people ages 12 to 17 showed that the rate of mental health issues, specifically depression, expanded 52 percent from 2005 to 2017.

Generally, school takes some sort of toll on students’ mental health, according to an NPR article by Meg Anderson and Kavitha Cardoza.

It also seems that social media plays a big role, according to a piece by NBC News, which also cites APA research. Currently, Tik Tok is one of the most popular social media platforms with an average of 250 million users, in addition to Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, etc., all of which have the potential to affect a teen’s self-image.