Being listless. Not caring about what used to bring joy. Feeling hopeless. It’s a daunting fact, but studies have shown cases of depression in Generation Z have risen dramatically. In light of the devastating consequences of what can happen when mental health isn’t addressed early on, The American Academy of Pediatricians has now mandated that teenagers receive annual depression screenings.
“It’s a huge problem,” Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot says, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, and associate professor at Columbia University: "What we're endorsing is that everyone, 12 and up, be screened ... at least once a year."
These screenings will typically consist of questionnaires teens fill out themselves, and can be done at annual check-ups, sports physicals, or in separate office visits. "Teenagers are often more honest when they're not looking somebody in the face," Zuckerbrot says, in regards to the negative stigma around mental health that keeps 50% of today’s depressed teens from being diagnosed. It’s hard to combat that kind of stigma face-to-face, but teens are more willing to answer questions about their mental health honestly in private.
According to a report from NPR, the questionnaire may ask questions like: “Over the past two weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems: feeling down, depressed or hopeless? Or, little interest or pleasure in doing things?' Teens are also asked questions such as: 'Are you having difficulty with sleep, either too much or too little?' 'Any problems with eating?”
In today’s climate, the consequences of ignoring mental health has become too dangerous to ignore. According to NPR, “Suicide is a leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 17,” and an AAP report reveals “adolescent suicide risk is strongly associated with firearm availability,” a fact that has too often plagued our news cycles in recent years. These new guidelines will also help families develop a safety plan to protect teens suffering from depression, which includes, according to NPR, “restricting the young person's access to lethal means of harm.”
When teens act out, too often their hostility is a thin blanket masking their depression. Students who get picked on in school, or feel like they don’t belong will sometimes turn to anger, as it’s an easier emotion to process than pain. Here at CMASAS, we believe in offering our students a safe place to explore their most authentic self.
Two out of three teenagers suffering from depression don’t get diagnosed. Maybe it’s the stigma that keeps them quiet. Maybe it’s that no one asked. Whatever the reason, we believe every student has the right to a safe place to be vulnerable and ask the questions that will grow them into the unique genius they’re meant to be.