More Teenagers are Being Diagnosed With Depression


When Elizabeth began to feel depressed during her freshman year in high school, she ate little and slept poorly. But she threw herself into a busy schedule of school and sports, hoping that she could outpace her sadness and anxiety.

“I didn’t feel right, and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to keep myself as busy as possible,” she says. “I’d call it a bad day and leave it at that. I’d try to wake up the next morning and put on as happy a face as I could.”

She began pulling away from others and became “distant and nervous,” she says. But she wouldn’t confide in anyone — not even her mother, who suspected that she was struggling. “I’d cry to my mom and tell her that I was just really tired. I needed to go to bed and start again the next day,” she says.

“One day, I couldn’t take it,” says Elizabeth, now a 16-year-old junior in the Philadelphia area. She talked about her depression on the condition that for privacy, her last name not be used. When a friend noticed that she seemed panicked during lunchtime at school, he rushed her to the counselor’s office. Later, Elizabeth was diagnosed with depression — one of a growing number of teens who have the disorder.

A recent national survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that  8.2% of young people ages 12-17 were depressed in 2011. By 2014, the rate had jumped to 11.4% — almost a 40% increase in 3 years.

“Depression among youth is a serious problem that is becoming more widespread,” the report says.

Another survey found that the number of teens reporting a major depressive episode in a 12-month period increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014. The rate was higher for teen girls — increasing from 13.1% in 2004 to17.3% in 2014. Suicide rates are also up among teens, especially teen girls.