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The Epidemic On the Rise

Exploring the Huge Spike in Anxiety and Depression Diagnosis’ for Millennials

By: Erika Homan


The teens and young adults of our generation, often referred to as Millennials, are often associated in the world of psychology with a significant rise in depression and anxiety disorder diagnosis’. It is important to acknowledge that the large rise in mental illness for teens in the recent years is not random.

Do you know someone who struggles with anxiety or depression?
Yes
No

So, why does this generation struggle more than ever with depression and anxiety? What is different about this generation than past generations that might have caused this spike in mental illness?

One important factor that I would like to address, as well as a difference between this generation and all previous generations, is the fact that teens today were the first to experience childhood and early adolescence with smartphones. Us teens have grown up in an world of political division/tension, school shootings, terrorism, climate crisis, and the list goes on. While each generation has grown up in a time with a unique set of struggles, our generation has constantly been surrounded by these negative occurrences due to social media and our smartphones. Our phones allow the events of the world and the communication with others to be constantly at our fingertips, allowing us on one hand to be more easily updated and aware of the events of the world, but on the other hand, more strongly impacted by what is on our screens. Many professionals in and out of the world of psychology point to this as a reason for the spike in anxiety and depression disorder diagnosis’ for teens today compared to previous generations. This makes mental health care and awareness of mental illness significantly more essential today than ever before.

My aim in this project is not to warn against the use of social media, but to create more awareness of this generational difference and spark conversation around mental illness. Due to the difference between this generation and previous generations, we need to advocate for ourselves and our mental health in order to reverse this sad trend in diagnosis’.

The following video includes my personal statement on this subject as well as some of my peers’ responses to questions regarding the relationship between mental illness and social media use:

An article with a further explanation of the link between social media use and mental illness: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/03/14/703170892/a-rise-in-depression-among-teens-and-young-adults-could-be-linked-to-social-medi

Research points to the fact that the rise of social media and phone use directly correlates with the rise in depression and anxiety disorders.

Image result for teen depression and phones

Some Negative Impacts of Social Media Use:

  • Increases risk of depression and anxiety
  • Leads to a lack of sleep due to lower levels of melatonin hormone
  • Shown to be a significant contributor to stress
  • Can lead to self-esteem issues due to comparisons or cyberbullying
  • Inhibits authentic social interactions
Image result for iphone and mental health

An article with a deeper explanation of the toxic side of social media: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/328749

In order to support those around us who may be struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, we must be aware of some warning signs to look out for.

Symptoms of Depression in Teens According to the Mayo Clinic:

Emotional Changes:

  • Feelings of sadness for no apparent reason
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Behavioral Changes:

  • Constant tiredness/loss of energy
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased or increased appetite
  • Substance Abuse
  • Self-Harm (Ex: Cutting or burning)
  • Slowed thinking or speaking

Symptoms of Anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) in Teens:

  • Worries or fears that are disproportionate to reality of events
  • Overthinking or jumping to worst-case scenario
  • Irrational perception of events or occurrences as threats
  • Difficulty with uncertainty
  • Feelings of restlessness or inability to relax
  • Fatigue or trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or fidgeting
  • Muscle tension or aches

How to Seek Help:

  • Disconnect in order to reconnect: Try taking a “media fast” or limiting hours on screens. Understand that while phone use is not the number one source of your problems, it has its negative impacts and is one easy way to feel better. Taking a break from social media will relieve you of the stress it causes that you might not realize is impacting your mental health. It will allow for more meaningful connections with those around you, as well as an escape from the often toxic environment found on social media platforms.
  • Depend on those closest to you. Lean on your most trusted friends or family for support. Speak up about your feelings.
  • Consider consulting a professional: This could be a psychologist or therapist, primary healthcare provider, or even a school counselor. Seeking help from a professional is nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Speak anonymously by calling a lifeline number:
  • Find a support group through an organization such as National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Empathize with yourself. Understand how you are not the only one in this situation.

How to Support Others:

Within our communities, each of us plays a role in creating a safe and supportive environment for those around us. Since such large amounts of teens today are already diagnosed with anxiety or depression, it is important to acknowledge that you never know who may be struggling with their mental health. It sometimes can be the least expected person. Whether it be a classmate, family member, or close friend who is struggling, being able to effectively support those around us is essential today:

  • Be aware of the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Look out for warning signs in those around you.
  • Encourage treatment. Those struggling with anxiety or depression often are the last to realize that they need help or that help is available to them.
  • Be someone who listens. Making those around you feel comfortable confiding in you and reassuring them that you are there for them can make a huge impact. Instead of only offering solutions or suggesting treatment, be supportive and empathize with their feelings.
  • Reach out and check in. This can be inviting someone who appears to be struggling to spend time with you or take part in your plans. It also can be calling the person regularly or asking them how they are doing. These small actions can have large impacts.
  • Understand the legitimacy and risk of suicide. Those with depression have a significantly increased risk of suicide. Any comment or suicidal behavior should be treated seriously. Some warning signs of suicide include: Statements or comments made about suicidal thoughts, getting the means to attempt suicide, self-harm, social withdrawal, substance abuse, or giving away meaningful belongings.
  • Be patient. Symptoms often only improve over long periods of time, and watching a loved one struggle can be frustrating.

Call to Action:

In order to fully address the specific needs of this generation in terms of mental illness, it is important to be aware of how the fundamental differences between this generation and previous ones such as the rise of social media play a role in mental health. Technology has its benefits, but equally has its risks. Understanding the large role social media and technology plays in society today, both positively and negatively, is crucial in order to use it in a healthy way. Social media is not going to disappear, and technology will continue to advance whether or not we like it, so learning the skills needed in order to effectively use social media is something that we are responsible for, and those skills will be passed on to generations to come. This is essential in order to reverse the spike in depression and anxiety diagnosis’.

Social Media is here to stay. How do we develop a healthy relationship with it?

  • Create balance. Limit your hours on social media per week. Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Become more in touch with how social media makes you feel. If a certain person you follows causes negative emotions for you, unfollow them. If a certain social media platform becomes toxic, delete your account. If a relationship with a person you are communicating with via the internet becomes unhealthy, do not hesitate to unfriend them. Prioritize your own happiness over the pressure to be connected online.
  • Understand that what you see online is not a reflection of reality. The way people display their lives on social media is simply the image they want you to perceive them as. Avoid making comparisons or false assumptions.
  • Unplug when around others. In order to have more fulfilling relationships and social interactions, try to avoid going on your phone when spending time with others. Be present and enjoy their company.

Works Cited

Alltucker, Ken. “Depression in adolescents and young adults is rising: Are phones and social media to blame?” USA Today, 14 Dec. 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2018/12/14/experts-question-whether-smartphones-lead-rising-depression-teens/2266882002/. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

Ehrenfeld, Temma. “Depression: The Growing American Health Storm.” Healthline.com, 2019 Healthline Media, 31 July 2018, www.healthline.com/health-news/depression-the-growing-american-mental-health-storm#1. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

Jowit, Juliette. “What is Depression and Why is it Rising?” Theguardian.com, Guardian News, 4 June 2018, www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jun/04/what-is-depression-and-why-is-it-rising. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

Miller, Caroline. “Does Social Media Cause Depression?” Child Mind Institute, childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

“New Study Shows Teenage Depression Rates Rising.” Newport Academy, 15 May 2018, www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/teen-depression-study/. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

Nutt, Amy Ellis. “Why Kids and Teens May Face Far More Anxiety These Days.” Washingtonpost.com, The Washington Post, 10 May 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/10/why-kids-and-teens-may-face-far-more-anxiety-these-days/?utm_term=.fe5203e78ca6. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

Rutledge, Pamela B. “The Healthy Use of Social Media.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 Oct. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/positively-media/201310/the-healthy-use-social-media. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

Sugarman, Joe. “The Rise of Teen Depression.” Johns Hopkins Health Review, Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2017, www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/fall-winter-2017/articles/the-rise-of-teen-depression. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.”Suicide.” cdc.gov, 2015, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.pdf. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.

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COMMENTS: 13
  1. April 26, 2019 by William Le Clercq

    Erika Homan, this is a wonderful presentation. I especially love this presentation because this issue is very personal to me so I love that you are fighting for and raising awareness for people who deal with depression and anxiety. I hope that this project continues to inspire more people and truly does create change

    • May 02, 2019 by Erika Homan

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!

  2. April 28, 2019 by Sheena Kwon

    I was really interested in this presentation because it’s a really interesting and relevant topic. I think that addressing how teens can deal with depression and anxiety is really important because there is not that much information given on it. I liked how you included the impact social media has because of how much teens use it daily.

    • May 02, 2019 by Erika Homan

      Thanks Sheena!
      I also noticed how little information is given on how you can deal with depression, so I hope I was able to give some practical ways to do this.

  3. April 28, 2019 by Heather Gadalla

    Hi Erika – I found your presentation super interesting and very relevant to the audience of the catalyst conference. I love how you had not only statistics to back up the links you found between social media and these mental illnesses, but also suggestions to combat the increasing numbers.

    • May 02, 2019 by Erika Homan

      Hi Heather!
      Thank you — I really felt that the statistics were necessary in order to show how much of a problem this really is with our generation.

  4. April 29, 2019 by Rose Cook

    I enjoyed reading your webpage Erika, you explored the issue of social media and mental health a way that’s different from other projects. You had a practical approach to the topic, and one of the most realistic and helpful plans for the future. Social media is going to continue, and we need to adapt in order to be our healthiest and happiest, a point not a lot of articles on your topic end up mentioning. Speaking from my own experience with anxiety, you have the most accurate story of the problem and such a wide variety of the most helpful and realistic solutions. Great job!!

    • May 02, 2019 by Erika Homan

      Thanks so much! That is great to hear from someone who can speak from personal experience, and that means a lot to me that you found it to be an accurate depiction of the problem.

  5. May 02, 2019 by Taichi Kakitani

    Your opening poll (voting)’s result was very interesting that 100% of the people voted knew someone who struggles with anxiety. This really explains the severity of the topic. It was interesting that you interviewed students at your school in your video. I liked how you included not just the facts but solutions. I truly believe that Social media has become a major issue in terms of peer pressure and anxiety. I’ve never had anxiety problems, but when I see someone else with it, I’m sure that I can help them from what I’ve learned.

    • May 02, 2019 by Erika Homan

      Hi Taichi! I assumed that mostly everyone would know someone who struggles with anxiety or depression, so I think it is important to acknowledge how much this impacts everyone today. Thanks for taking the time to read it!!

  6. May 02, 2019 by Ira.Kadet

    I love how you emphasized the difference between this generation of kids and the past, and I agree with you that kids these days are more susceptible to the negativity in this world. Like you said, people should be more aware of the mental disorders caused by technology, and work to help those in need. Also, great job including resources to help people.

    • May 02, 2019 by Erika Homan

      Thank you so much!
      I thought it was super intriguing how our generation struggles so much more with this issue and I am glad to hear you agree! Thanks for taking the time to read.

  7. May 19, 2019 by Ami.Adachi

    Hi Erika! I’m glad that your project focused a lot on the effect of smart phones on the lives of millennials because the mental issue of anxiety and depression is really an epidemic on the rise as I know many who have gone through this problems once or multiple times already. I felt like your project was one that would provide a lot of support to teens who are going through depression and/or anxiety and also provided multiple ways they can help reduce the amount of stress they are feeling. I learned a lot from your project and hope that I can help out my friends or family members that are going through these issues using the multiple methods to support others your proposed!

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