Depression rates rise among teens

Exploring reasons behind the rise in depression rates and ways to mitigate it


Jisha Rajala

According to the CDC, there has been a 60% increase in U.S. teen girls and a 30% increase in U.S. teen boys’ feelings of persistent sadness or hopelessness in 2021 compared to the last highest level reported in the decade. Unfortunately, from 2022 to 2023, the numbers have increased by 9.43%. Junior Prerena Dilip had experienced depression since 7th grade and was diagnosed in the second semester of sophomore year.

“The hardest part about it is that no one knows that it’s happening to you,” Dilip said. “‘It’s hard to ask for help because people just say it’s all in your head.”

Dilip’s sentiment echoes the experience of millions of teenagers in the U.S.  who experience depression. However, the underlying causes of this rising depression epidemic are not confined to individuals but rather stem from various societal factors. 

MVHSs school-based therapist Leila Lurie has seen a significant increase in the number of teenagers experiencing depression during her 25 years of experience. While Lurie cites many factors such as familial relationships, peer pressure, and the pressure of getting into top colleges as significant causes of depression, she believes “social media has made a big difference.”

“I see a lot more competition right now,” Lurie said. “A lot more comparisons. I see that our communities feel much more fractured and polarized right now [leading] to a general sense of unease.”

Parent Sowjanya Singamsetty agrees that social media fosters toxic competition, expanding on the significant effects it has on teenagers’ mental health.

“Social media and technology are good if you leverage that in the right way,” Singamsetty said. “At the same time, [it] will isolate [teens] from people around them and sometimes challenges [them] to meet [the expectations presented by] social media [due to the urge] to fit in.”

Along with the impact of social media in heavily enforcing unrealistic body and beauty standards, Dilip emphasizes the role of academic stress in further invoking signs of depression in her and in teens in general.

“We prepare our whole lives to go to [a good] college,” Dilip said. “We put so much stress on ourselves, [resulting in] people not seeing themselves through a positive lens.”

Singamsetty shares how common signs of depression she has seen in teenagers include isolation, loss of interest in activities and changes in their eating habits and sleep cycles. According to Mayo Clinic, other signs of depression can include feelings of hopelessness, problems at school or home, agitation and self-harm. While Dilip expresses how she pushes through the day, attempting to evade the negative thoughts that burden her due to depression, therapy has played a huge role in coping with depression in the long run. Furthermore, as a therapist, Lurie emphasizes the importance of creating a safe and open environment to foster dialogue and allow the student time to introspect the complexity of their emotions. 

“I do believe that most of us have the answers from within — as a therapist, it is my job to create a space where they can find their own healing,” Lurie said. “On a more practical level, I like to provide resources, psychoeducation about fight, flight and freeze, as well as practical problem solving. I believe depression and anxiety and many other disorders are contextually environmental.”

Along with ensuring patience when interacting with students, Singamsetty expresses the importance for parents to learn from student experiences and the importance of communication to bring light to parental support to cope with depression.

“If [students] talk and socialize more with parents and people around them, [parents] can learn [from] the experiences and learn some coping mechanisms,” Singamsettty said. “Depression is quite common nowadays and [parents and students alike] should be brave enough to face any [situation] and make the right decisions.”

Lurie agrees with Singamsetty and further highlights the importance of parental support when a student experiences a period of depression. 

“[It is essential for parents and teachers to] get educated themselves and to listen without judgment,” Lurie said. “If, after they educate themselves, they are noticing some significant symptoms [such as] hopelessness, changes in appetite, etc., talking to their students and possibly getting outside help [are definite steps to take]. [Overall], It is really important to have the student’s voice be centered.”