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Depression and Teens

August 24, 2022

By Anna McKenzie

What are the facts about teens and depression? Depression rates among teenagers have been steadily rising for over a decade, according to Pew Research Center. In fact, SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that 17% of our country’s teens experienced a major depressive episode in the last year, with 12% of these episodes considered life-disrupting.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased rates of depression and anxiety for just about everyone, and teens were no exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44% of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the pandemic, and 37% reported that their mental health suffered during that time. 

The COVID-19 pandemic increased rates of depression and anxiety for just about everyone, and teens were no exception.

Additionally, and perhaps a factor in their mental health struggles, some were not spared insults or injuries during the global shutdown: 55% said they experienced emotional abuse at home, and 11% said they experienced physical abuse. 

Depression and Suicide in Teens

Rates of depression and suicide in teens have risen together. According to a CDC survey, nearly 9% of teens reported attempting suicide, compared with roughly 6% a decade ago. But nearly 19% seriously considered attempting suicide in 2019, an alarming statistic and 5% increase from 2009. 

Social media and teen depression is a critical issue. At times, social media can exacerbate low self-esteem that a teen is already struggling with or feelings of missing out. It feeds the development of comparison culture. shared a leaked internal report by Meta (Facebook’s parent company) that revealed how Instagram often worsens self-image issues for girls. Taking a break from social media can be a very good idea for teens suffering from depression. 

Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Teens

How can you tell the difference between stage-of-life moodiness and a clinical issue when it comes to teens? One warning sign is if symptoms become life-disrupting. It’s also important to talk to teens, not just once, but regularly, about how they’re feeling and why. Don’t be frustrated if the conversations don’t happen when or how you want them to; just be supportive and continue to try. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some symptoms of depression and anxiety in teens to watch for: 

  • Frequent, inexplicable crying spells
  • Acute irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Increased conflict with friends and family
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
  • Exaggerated self-blame or self-judgment
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Excessive pessimism and hopelessness
  • Intrusive, persistent thoughts about death or suicide
  • Extreme fatigue or insomnia
  • Change in appetite (not wanting to eat, emotional eating, binge eating)
  • Social isolation
  • Absences or poor performance in school
  • Self-harm
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Making a suicide plan or talking about what will happen after they’re gone

If your teen is exhibiting these symptoms, you don’t have to handle the situation alone. Ask for support from friends and family and get help from a counselor or treatment professional. 

What Helps Teens with Depression?

The return to school after the pandemic has not been without its ups and downs, but a sense of togetherness at school can be a buffer against depression. The CDC says teens who felt connected at school during the pandemic (even if they weren’t attending in person) were nearly 20% less likely to indicate experiencing depression. 

Additionally, it may come as no surprise that a safe and stable homelife can also boost a teen’s mental health. 

“If there [are] boundaries that are met at home — and those boundaries need to be met at home — then the child is going to feel safe no matter where they go. And so if that home situation is safe, then they’re able to take in what I call ‘novelty,’” says Scott Davis, Chief Clinical Officer of The Meadows. “Novelty” is what Davis refers to as the unusual things that happen to us on a daily basis. “If we have a good basis, [a good] homelife, then we’re more likely to be able to take in those [novelties], that kind of craziness we encounter in the outside world.

“So really, it’s creating that nice home space. And the way that we do that is by making sure, not just that they’re fed and clothed and all those good things, but also that we’re listening, that we’re communicating, and that we’re also setting boundaries with our children. Because boundaries really do equal safety,” says Davis.

According to CDC research, adolescents who feel connected at home and at school are two-thirds less likely to engage in behaviors that could damage their health, such as risk-taking sexual behavior, substance use, and violence.

Regardless of the many reasons for depression among teens, it’s important to know how to identify depression symptoms in adolescents and how to help them.

Find Mental Health Healing at The Meadows

Regardless of the many reasons for depression among teens, it’s important to know how to identify depression symptoms in adolescents and how to help them. Knowing when to seek the assistance of a treatment professional is also key. Supporting teens in the midst of depressive episodes, and consulting treatment professionals can help prevent tragic outcomes. If your teen is in need of mental health help, contact our team today. Through our research-backed programs, we can get your loved one started on their recovery journey.