The Silent Epidemic of Mental Health Illnesses
Our world is becoming more and more innovative and advanced, putting a nagging pressure on teenagers to continue the rapid growth of our society. Meanwhile, the numbers of teens having anxiety, depression, or other mental health illnesses has rapidly increased in the past 30 years (Bright). The total number of people diagnosed with depression has increased by 450% since 1987 (Amin). Could these two facts be related? To answer no would be quite naive. The process of applying for anything, especially college, requires listing your activities. The longer your college resume, the better. This drives teenagers across the world to pursue as many extracurricular activities as possible. We feel pressured to volunteer, apply for internships, and join various clubs. I know I cannot speak for all of my classmates, but I know I can speak for many. Will our world ever take a step back and look at the crippling effects of the pressure our society places on teens? Society keeps pushing teens to do more, making it clear their success will determine the future. However, do the results overpower our quality of life?
In junior high health class, I learned about mental illnesses. However, they seem a little far-fetched and unrealistic. I thought, How could someone be sad all the time? After all, how can you truly understand something without seeing it with your eyes? But freshman year, I did. I met someone who eventually became my best friend. However, quickly into the friendship, I realized they didn’t see themselves the way I did. They picked out everything they didn’t like about themselves, and magnified it. They constantly compared themselves to others, holding themselves to an unrealistic standard. I wasn’t sure how to respond, and I didn’t know what to do. My initial reacton was to shower them with compliments; I tried to convince them to see themselves the way I did. However, I quickly realized that wasn’t going to cut it. It wasn’t a bloody knee that needed a few bandages. It was a long-term illness that required more than what I could offer.
As a junior in high school, I can say without a doubt, more of my friends have a mental health illness than not. That being said, mental health illnesses are not an issue we should set aside.
A major issue we fail to address is the availability for support. Mental health problems are not any less serious than broken bones. They should be addressed immediately. My friend tells me about how medication scares her, because depression is a side effect of anxiety medication. This proves mental health has become something we fear and the patients don’t have the proper information on how to address it. It’s like falling into a hole and not knowing how to get yourself out, without hurting yourself more. My friend tells me about how her parents tried to schedule an appointment to see a psychiatrist but the waiting list was over 5 months long. This proves the level of urgency that our world places upon mental health problems is not at the level it should be.
Any piece of data our world runs into is immediately analyzed. The conclusions we draw from our analyses often result in change. One obvious economic change that we have faced is the rapidly decreasing middle class. The shrinking of the middle class has reached a point where it may no longer be the economic majority in the U.S. (“America’s,” 2016).
How do you think this affects the competition for a decent job? Whether people have recognized it or not, the increasing competition is part of the formula that is being injected into millions of teenagers worldwide. High school and college students stress about not being “good enough” to get a good job. The stakes are so much higher than they were before, yet why isn’t anyone realizing the effects it is having on the mental health of teens?
One might argue that our society is not to blame for the rising rates of teen depression and anxiety. What else do they need? They have accessible 504 plans and can be easily medicated. That statement is true. There are 504 plans and medication for mental health illnesses, but only for the people that have been properly diagnosed.
Even those who have been diagnosed are not always provided with the support they need. In 1984, 10% of people had no one to talk to about important issues in their life. In 2004, that number has grew to 25% (Amin). The cause of this data could be the fact that face-to-face relationships are becoming less and less common. People cannot expect a 504 plan and some pills to solve all mental health illnesses. Take a broken bone, for example. You can’t throw them a cast or some ice and expect everything to be okay. They need proper instructions on how to go about it. Coming back to the topic of mental health illnesses, it is the same thing. People need to hear that what they are going through is common and doesn’t make them any less of a person. Mental health patients need more than medication; they need someone to talk to. This includes psychiatrists and social workers especially, but anyone can help.
The rates of mental health illnesses among teens have rapidly increased, but our society ignores this statistic completely, making it rise even more rapidly than it already is. We need to implement obvious yet drastic changes. This includes raising awareness, offering more support within high schools, providing accessible treatment plans, and lowering the unrealistic expectations we place upon teens. How long is it going to take our society to realize this problem? Until the epidemic passes over us all?
Earlier in this essay, I talked about one of my best friends. However, they weren’t just any best friend, they were so much more. January 11th, 2015 was the worst day of my life, and the last day of his. An illness far more deadly than anything else took his life away. I shared this personal anecdote to share the powerful way in which this epidemic changed my life. However, I did not write this essay to share about myself. I wrote this essay in hopes of making this silent epidemic be heard.
Amin, Amit. “Is Depression Really on The Rise?” Happier Human. Happier Human, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://happierhuman.com/is-depression-really-on-the-rise>.
Bright, Frances. “Increased Levels of Anxiety and Depression as Teenage Experience Changes over Time.” Increased Levels of Anxiety and Depression as Teenage Experience Changes over Time. Nuffield Foundation, 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/increased-levels-anxiety-and-depression-teenage-experience-changes-over-time>.
“America’s Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Pew Research Center, 11 May 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/05/11/americas-shrinking-middle-class-a-close-look-at-changes-within-metropolitan-areas/>.