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Opinion: Educating the public on adolescent depression

With depression becoming a more apparent, affliction that is affecting our current adolescent population, we expect that our modern society, which has advanced in the field of mental health, to have an extensive psychological aid system in place. However, rising cases among U.S. adolescents show that we do not have a full understanding of adolescent…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/huskybleps/" target="_self">Mark Lin</a>

Mark Lin

June 5, 2021

With depression becoming a more apparent, affliction that is affecting our current adolescent population, we expect that our modern society, which has advanced in the field of mental health, to have an extensive psychological aid system in place.

However, rising cases among U.S. adolescents show that we do not have a full understanding of adolescent depression and do not have an effective system in place to address the mental health needs of adolescents.

As a first step, it’s important to educate American society about adolescent depression, which can aid in reducing public stigma and increase willingness to access psychological services.

Adolescent depression is different from depression in other ages for a reason. With adolescents being in a period of developing and understanding themselves, the peers around them, and society in general, their physical and mental structures change dramatically. During this, adolescents may experience symptoms of depression without realizing that something isn’t normal.

Usually, signs of depression listed by Mayo Clinic professionals include low self-esteem, conflict with family and friends, loss of interest in hobbies and feelings of guilt, just to name a few. These symptoms may be not apparent to others who are uninformed or inexperienced in what to look out for in identifying adolescent depression.

Gaps in education about psychological sciences and mental health have led to public stigma involving perceived notions of mental health. Many may conclude that depression might just be a natural part of adolescent puberty and changes in social and emotional structures for young people. Others might brush off the issue by stating that mental health is just a catchphrase used by adolescents.

In M. L. Aiken’s research, the expert mentions that students who hide their depression fear the possibly consequences of revealing how they feel. This reconfirms how public stigma has affected adolescent willingness to receive psychological help.

Due to the lack of education involving psychology in the general public, misconceptions, like the one stated above, can make it quite difficult for adolescents to find a support system within their communities. But what can be more damaging is those who are uneducated in the complexities of psychological care and talking to those who have adolescent depression; their well-meaning intentions can be viewed as a burden to those who are suffering.

Writers from HelpGuide, an NPO that aids in providing guides in life’s struggles, suggest that adults should not attempt to talk their teen out of depression. While it might sound contradictory to not respond to frivolous feelings that others may not understand depression, it is quite vital that they feel they are supported by their community.

Most will feel that their own communities won’t be understanding of their own problems, which are made worse due to wrongly conceived notions of adolescent depression, shutting off a vital part of adolescent aid, their friends and family, as a source of recovery for adolescents suffering from depression.

Even if adolescents are able to find someone who is willing to listen, medical professionals may become a new hurdle to overcome. With its vast range of symptoms and severity, along with an unstable mental baseline due to puberty, there is no firm guideline in place that healthcare professionals can refer to check for signs of depression.

Psychological understanding in the medical sector has created a difficult challenge that even if there is a proper understanding of adolescent depression, the lack of importance in healthcare education can be disheartening. Adolescents might also find that just seeing a psychologist is extremely difficult due to the legal red tape and inadequate access to healthcare services.

Researchers from the Institute of Medicine stated that the problems in access, disorganization of care management and even insurance coverage continue to block actual delivery of care today. Adolescents find the issues stated above are a barrier to effective treatment of adolescent depression. Many adolescents will struggle as they do not have a support system to help save them from their own feelings of guilt caused by adolescent depression.

Adolescents also find that the lack of education and care from their own communities and medical providers has increased due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Usual sources of relief, like talking to their friends in schools, have been prohibited due to school closures. Students find that COVID-19 has also affected their ability to feel a baseline sense of normality among the chaos of the pandemic.

Colby Tyson told the Washington Post that they’re dealing with a huge change in social, familial and academic requirements. As they’re unable to maintain independence from their parents and are disconnected from physical interactions with their peers, their unattended feelings of adolescent depression spiral out of control.

With the compounding factor of uneducated communities on depression and limited healthcare access, adolescents struggle to find a way out of their own negative thoughts and feelings that adolescent depression can bring upon them.

In order to ensure that our adolescents are able to get through their struggles with depression, educating the public on monitoring for signs of adolescent depression and ensuring open conversation on adolescent depression can really aid in providing quality care where it is needed the most. The general public should also be educated on the treatment process of adolescent depression to aid in deconstructing the stigma involved with mental care.

Education can be a key factor in dealing with the public stigma of adolescent depression. As many suffer in silence due to an inadequate mental health care system and a shortage of trained professionals who are well versed in psychotherapy can be quite challenging to fill. Therefore, it is up to the American public to aid in closing the gaps of the mental healthcare system, but they need to be armed with the right information to do so.

It is quite important that this ignorance gap is closed for the sake of our adolescents in the U.S. who suffer from adolescent depression in silence. Aiding them in finding ways of managing and understanding their own depression is not just good for them as individuals, but society as a whole.

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