Rates for Childhood Depression and Suicide Have Been Rising
A recent report by the Washington Post reports that the number of teenagers who committed suicide increased by 31 percent over the past seven years. The news is all too often filled with stories about adolescents committing desperate acts such as running away or harming others as they attempt to deal with their depression. Sadly, these statistics may continue to get worse unless adults step in to address the underlying causes for teen depression and suicide. Studies show a connection between increasing smartphone usage and the rising rates of teen depression. Adults can play an important role in supporting mental health and the well-being of teenagers by understanding how to use this information to support teens emotional needs.
Why Are Teen Mental Health Issues Rising?
Rates of teen depression have steadily risen as smartphone technology has become more advanced and readily available. Today, teenagers face extreme social pressure and it is common for a teen to feel as though every photo, comment, like and share they make online places them under a microscope.
How Do Smartphones Affect Moods?
Teenage years are often viewed as an emotional rollercoaster, and it is true that the adolescent period is a time when people undergo tremendous growth as individuals. However, smartphones can interrupt several aspects of a teenager’s functioning. For example, teenagers may experience interrupted sleep that affects their emotional regulation if they have message alerts waking them, or lose track of time texting into the early morning. They may also experience anticipation and anxiety as they wait to see how people respond to a text or social media post. In problematic cases, teens experience the devastating effects of online bullying where many people may influence their pain and humiliation at once.
What Are Signs of Smartphone Overload?
Parents often give their child a smartphone for safety purposes since it provides a way to communicate anytime. While given under the pretense of security, a teenager may lack the self-control and maturity it takes to stay safe and keep it to a healthy amount of usage. For this reason, parents should watch for signs of developing smartphone addiction and depression such as appearing exhausted in the morning. A teenager may also stop spending time with their friends in real life as they become preoccupied with their online activities.
How Can Teen Depression Be Treated?
Early treatment gives teens the best outcome for dealing with smartphone-related depression. However, professional counseling is the best treatment for teenagers with mental health conditions in any stage. Counselors help teenagers identify the reasons why they are addicted to their smartphone, and they teach teens strategies for coping with their depression such as learning when to shut the phone off.
What Can Parents Do at Home?
Parents can help teens recover from depression by modeling responsible smartphone use themselves such as turning the phone off at dinner. It also helps to establish rules for phone usage such as setting up a charging station outside of the teen’s bedroom where they place their phone at night. Time limits are also a proven way to help since teenagers who spend more than five hours on their phone a day are at greater risk for depression and suicide.
Although the rise in teen depression rates is distressing for parents, it is good news to know that a few tweaks can bring great change in turning these statistics around. By combining professional treatment with at-home strategies that regulate smartphone usage, it is possible to encourage teenagers to grows up mentally healthy and strong.
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