More Teenagers are Being Diagnosed With Depression

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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.