Tasneem Arifa, Psychologist and Psychotherapist at seraniti.com shares her thoughts on Depression in today’s youth.
Feeling sad and irritable most of the time is not a normal part of adolescence, it is something that needs to be addressed immediately. Everybody feels sad, moody or miserable at times. Usually such feelings are in reaction to something like heated arguments with family or friends, breaking up with someone, changing schools, relocating and the like. But some people feel low and hopeless most of the time. They stop enjoying life and lose interest in the activities and things they used to enjoy. That is were the symptoms of depression set in.
Depression however, is more than just a low mood. It is a serious condition that makes it hard to cope up with the routine of day to day life. Getting up early and going to school or college itself might seem impossible due to the low energy levels. And if this is not detected early in life, and left untreated, it can result in under-achievers at study or work, alcohol and drug abuse, and an increased risk of suicide. But the matter of concern here is why are so many adolescents getting depressed in the first place?
According to suicide.org, a teen takes his/her own life every 100 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people aged between 15 and 24. Approximately 20 percent of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood, and between 10 to 15 percent suffer from symptoms at any one time. However only 30 percent of teens are being treated for it. The reason being increased stress today than in previous generations which in turn, triggers depression and mood disorders. This irrepressible stress could be due to the fact that today we raise children with unrealistic expectations or a lack of guidance regarding coping skills in a world of turbulence and excessive competition.
Here are seven risk factors for depression. Adult intervention and support in these areas could go a long way in the prevention of Depression in today’s teens:
1. Lack of community and family support: Children who lack parental support and are looked down upon by their near and dear ones are more prone to depression.
2. Less exercise and lack of sunshine: Youngsters get so engrossed in their video games and other apps, that they become lethargic and avoid outings and socialising. A recent study shows an association between sitting time and mental health. Particularly, the longer a person sits, the more likely he/she is to have symptoms of depression. Less outdoors and more indoors with today’s technological growth is also one of the reasons for depression in today’s youth as they lack exposure to the sun and the many healing powers it carries along. While too much of warm rays from the sun could be harmful to the skin, the right balance can actually have mood uplifting benefits. Exposure to sunlight is thought to trigger the release of hormones in the brain called serotonin which is used to boost the mood and help a person feel calm and focused.
3. Increasing divorce among couples: The effect of divorce on children can be devastating. It is often seen that children are always the losers in such situations. These children are often manipulated by their parents for personal, social and financial reasons. The stress caused by such relationships on children can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and sometimes even suicide attempts.
4. Growing competition and unrealistic expectations: Some kids and adolescents don’t feel competent enough owing to their highly ambitious parent’s unrealistic expectations and demands. As a result there is a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness leading to a depressed state.
5. Improper sleep hygiene: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. This has remained a mere cliche in today’s world with the many technological advances. One feels fragile and lethargic after a bad sleep. Exhaustion affects our mood, our energy level and our cognitive functioning. The problem is, depression can cause sleep disturbances, so it can become a vicious cycle.
6. Peer Pressure: The endless pressure exerted by peers can distort a person’s ability to lead a normal life. The material needs keep growing till it reaches a point where non-affordability leads to depression.
7. Affairs of the heart : Inability to gain the favours of a person, or rejection in love, can lead a person to such extremes as to take a life, even his own. The growing into adulthood and longing for a mate may push a person into depression, especially when rejected or sidelined, which is taken as a defeat and humiliation.
Detecting early signs of hopelessness, helplessness, low self esteem, low activity levels in the youth and offering them a helping hand by giving them unconditional love and support can mitigate the harmful effects of Depression.