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In light of the many tragedies related to youth and mental health that have occurred in recent years, teenage depression has been the focus of continued research and educational efforts nationwide. A recent report documented that, while rates of major depression are on the rise for teenagers as a group, teenage girls are increasingly affected by this damaging health concern.
Social scientists state that between 2005 and 2014, rates of depression among teenage girls rose by an unprecedented 17%, and while they have not uncovered the precise cause of the spike, several factors have been revealed as potentially contributing to the problem.
Some who are actively studying youth and the mental health crisis cite an increase in bullying, specifically cyberbullying, as one factor that may be taking a toll on the mental and emotional wellbeing of American youth. Teenage girls are shown to have more exposure to cyberbullying than their male peers, and this type of harassment has been shown to cause an increase in depressive symptoms that could eventually lead to self-harming behaviors, or even suicidal ideation.
Another issue that may be having an impact on teenage mental health is related to sleep. One researcher posits that as teens have increased access to technology, especially mobile devices, this may lead them to spending more and more time online, especially into the evening hours. This increased internet use may be contributing to a lack of sleep at a critical developmental life stage, causing physical and emotional problems for teens.
Identifying depression in teenagers can be difficult. In part, this is due to the fact that mood swings and a flare for drama often accompany the teenage years for even the healthiest teens. Therefore, it is critical that adults who work with young people learn more about how to spot teenage depression, and what resources are available in the communities they work in.
One such program that is helping to empower adults to support teens who are exhibiting signs of depression is the Project Aware Grant Program at East Central University in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. The grant is designed to provide free educational seminars to organizations so that approximately 750 residents of Pontotoc County can become trained as youth mental health first aid responders.
Through this grant and other similar programs, experts hope that more youth who are struggling with depression can be identified and connected with the care they need sooner rather than later. These first aid responders will be knowledgeable about existing resources for youth in their communities, and will be able to make recommendations about options for care for young people who may need supports such as outpatient counseling or more acute, in-patient residential care.