Growing Number of Teens Exhibit Mental Health Problems


Eloy Kim, Sophomore Staff Writer

One out of every five Americans suffer from mental illness. That’s 65 million total Americans and 15 million of them are children ages 3 to 17, states NBC news. This is a statistic that would shock most, but to some students of Hubbard High school, this is a sad, but accepted reality. Nicholas Capuzello, a sophomore, was unsurprised at the high rate, saying, “There are so many milder forms of mental illness that are common right now.”  Albert Gerlick, another sophomore at Hubbard High School, had a similar reaction. “I imagine school plays a large factor in this. As an honors student, I have high expectations for the excessive amount of homework and tests I get. When my expectations aren’t met, I become really stressed out, and I imagine it’s the same for many other students in high school.” All of this stress can lead to both anxiety and depression.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University shows that the number of depressive episodes in adolescents increased from 8.7 percent to 11.3 percent from 2005 to 2014 .  That’s a pretty significant and somewhat frightening statistic to consider.

Besides depression, mental illness comes in all kinds of forms including anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. The results can be devastating; people who have suffered mental illness have often resorted to taking their own lives. Suicide rates have risen in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why are these mental illness rates, specifically with teenagers, so high?   Our teenage years are perhaps the most exciting and turbulent moments of our lives as we explore new things, and gain a small glimpse of a much larger world. These are the years in which our minds truly start to mature, the times where a single moment could dictate where we go in life. This part of our life, however, is when we are most vulnerable. Studies show that about 50 percent of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, according to the American Psychiatric Association. A tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to 18.

The exact cause of most mental illnesses is unknown, but it is becoming clearer that these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors — not personal weakness or character defects. A stressful environment, for example, could trigger a disorder in a person who may be at risk for developing a mental illness. Children who go through psychological trauma, such as severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, are also very likely to suffer mental illnesses.

When we talk about today’s world, however, another factor worth considering is the media. Today’s social media world is so influential in public opinion. While this huge flow of information can be useful, the methods of bullying have become even more troublesome. Cyberbullying makes it easier to spread negative views on a particular individual or group. Judgemental views are also more easier to get across. In a study presented at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting, researchers found that adolescents who experience cyberbullying are at increased risk for several mental health conditions.

While there is little we can do to prevent mental illnesses, we can definitely make the lives of those suffering it a little easier through words of encouragement and comfort. As America’s youth face this mental health crisis, it’s important for us to be more careful of what we say (especially in the media) and to never take another person’s life for granted; for a person’s life is too precious to be left alone in a tragic struggle.