Mind Teen Health

Teen Health: Understanding and Addressing Depression

Managing the difficulties of adolescence, especially for a Black teen, can elicit a wide range of emotions. It’s typical for a teen to feel sad, worn out, annoyed, and experience a broad spectrum of emotions. Dealing with these ups and downs is a normal part of being a teenager. But it’s important to know when these emotions have crossed the line to something more serious, like depression.

What is teenage depression?

Depression is a severe health issue characterized by an overpowering sense of despair, sadness, hopelessness, frustration, irritation, or anger that persists over time. It is so imperative that everyone—parents, educators, and friends—understand the realities of young people who are struggling with mental health concerns, particularly those within our community.

Racism and Depression Among Black Teenagers

Recent studies have also shown that depression has slowly escalated to the point where it affects 20% of American teenagers. Furthermore, young people who have had a major depressive episode (MDE) in the previous year are at a higher risk of suicide.

The rates of suicide among teenagers are alarmingly high globally, and they rank among top killers for Americans aged 15 to 24. Unfortunately, more than half of all young people suffering from depression will try suicide at least once, and more than 7% will tragically die as a result.

Official data reveals a 73 percent rise in suicide attempts among Black adolescents from 1991 to 2017. During that period, the risk of injury from attempted suicide among Black boys rose by more than 122%. Moreover, suicide rates among youths in our community are growing faster than in any other racial or ethnic group. Compared to their white counterparts, Black adolescents under the age of 13 are twice as likely to commit suicide.

Unfortunately, racial prejudice, which contributes to depression and suicide, is the norm among our people. In fact, according to a small poll of Black youths, some of our children experience it up to five times every day. Also after two weeks of similar encounters, these children demonstrated more severe symptoms of depression.

Sadly, it seems like the media and the field of psychiatry mainly talk about white teenagers when discussing these problems, leaving out teens in the black community. No one can express it better than Calhoun, an expert at Yale School of Medicine and the Yale Child Study Center. She specializes in understanding how anti-Black racism, especially in the medical field, affects mental health.

“In my work as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I’ve witnessed how racism affects Black youth. One time, a kindergartener was really sad and lonely for weeks because her white classmates said her skin was too dark to play with them. Another instance involved a fourth-grader who felt so down because her white neighbors told her that her black skin was ugly.

There’s also the case of a wealthy high schooler who ended up in the hospital after attempting suicide because of mistreatment by peers and teachers at her predominantly white prep school. In each situation, I was the only mental health professional who understood how anti-Black racism played a crucial role in their mental health. Unfortunately, the mental health field often forgets to talk about these experiences when discussing the ongoing mental health crisis in youth.”

Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Teens

A teen’s behavior, academic performance, sleep patterns, and social relationships can shift significantly during difficult circumstances. Although experiences might differ, depressive symptoms are common among youth, Black and non-Black. Teens of color may experience worsening symptoms as a result of potential barriers to receiving care. Additionally, because mental health is stigmatized, some teenagers from Black communities may choose to conceal their depression symptoms.

Let’s now look at critical markers of teen depression so that we can identify when our Black teens need life-saving care and know when to intervene.

  • Feeling down often, always sad or crying, getting exceedingly irritated or irrational
  • Taking unnecessary risks, for example, reckless driving, drinking a lot, or unsafe sex
  • Struggling at school, changes in their academic performance, chronic absenteeism, declining grades, and becoming frustrated with school assignments and homework
  • Sleep and eating changes
  • Losing interest in things they once loved, for example, a sudden disinterest in sports and skipping out on friends and family
  • Feeling not good enough, inadequate, unworthy, or ugly
  • Thinking or talking about leaving or running away from home
  • Turning to drugs or alcohol
  • Getting too attached to screens
  • Getting aggressive

Causes of Teenage Depression

A teen can get depressed for a variety of reasons. Particularly for Black teens, it’s not just about feeling sad; it’s more a mix of biological, environmental, psychological, and social stuff. Hormonal changes, parental and family dynamics, heredity, and traumatic events, especially early childhood experiences (ECEs), are some of the many factors that can likely contribute to or worsen teen depression.

Black youths face particular difficulties because of their economic condition and cultural background, making their mental health struggles even more complex. Camon causes of depression among our teens include:

  • Systemic racism and discrimination
  • The pressure to succeed in school, along with discrimination while attempting to access learning tools
  • Living in neighborhoods with limited resources, higher crime rates, and inadequate community support.
  • Negative stereotypes on social media, e.g., unrealistic expectations of beauty and cyberbullying, making them feel inadequate and depressed
  • intergenerational trauma, financial hardships, and other family dynamics, along with single motherhood
  • Damaging encounters with the justice system, perceptions of bias, and concerns about racial profiling

Furthermore, it is impossible to ignore how the media contributes to racial injustice and how this relationship affects teen depression. Events like the killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery deeply affect the mental well-being of all of us, including our teens.

To address these traumatic situations, initiating talks, raising awareness, and advocating for justice is imperative. Regrettably, there isn’t enough support for reforming the justice system and fostering systemic trust—essential actions to reduce these stresses are imperative.

Addressing Depression Problem In Teens

Treating, managing, and building resilience in teens with depression involves a comprehensive approach that may include the following strategies:

1. Professional Help

Bring your teenager to a mental health expert, like a behavioral therapist or psychologist who specializes in helping black adolescents. It will help your teen learn healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress and navigate challenging situations. A mental examination for medication may also be something you want to consider if a medical expert recommends it.

2. Supportive Environment

Establish a compassionate and supportive home environment so your adolescent may express their emotions without worrying about being judged. Encourage open conversations and make an effort to pay attention to what they have to say.

3. Healthy Lifestyle

Regular exercise, yoga, meditation, a balanced diet, and appropriate sleep and rest contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Get them involved in things they enjoy to make them happy and fulfilled. Try out creative hobbies to help them express themselves and relax. For the sake of consistency and predictability, please maintain a routine.

4. Educational and Peer Support

If your adolescent is dealing with issues such as racial discrimination, abuse, or other detrimental experiences directed towards Black teens at school, work with their teachers to establish a more positive environment at school. Look into whether the school provides counseling services since they could give more support. Assist your adolescent in connecting with supportive peers at home and school. Try organizing fun things to enjoy when hanging out with them.

To fully understand teen depression, one must take into account both its causes and symptoms. By exploring the intricacies of this mental health issue, we may collaborate to create a supportive atmosphere especially suited to Black youth’s needs. The goal is to arm them with all the tools and support necessary to handle any challenge that may arise.

Further Reading:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com
  2. https://www.k-state.edu/counseling/resources
  3. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health
  4. https://www.snexplores.org/article/study-links-racism-with-signs-of-depression-in-black-teens
  5. https://time.com/6331945/anti-black-racism
  6. https://www.hindawi.com/journals
  7. https://www.futurity.org/racial-discrimination-online

About the author

Geoffrey Andaria Shivayanga

Geoffrey Andaria Shivayanga, CEO of Andaria Virtual Solutions, excels in English language proficiency, meticulously crafting online content for resonance and effective conversion. With a background as an English and journalism teacher and degrees from Pwani University and the University of Nairobi, he demonstrates a commitment to language and communication. Holding diplomas and certificates in law, economics, mental health, psychiatry, real estate development, and graphics design, Geoffrey's multifaceted expertise contributes to his role as a web writer and researcher. Guided by a belief in transforming information into compelling narratives, he provides comprehensive insights across diverse topics, showcasing unwavering commitment to excellence.

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