By Cassandra Vega, Staff Writer
The word “therapy” is a loaded one, filled with unintended connotations that have infiltrated the minds of teenagers across the country. Kids joke about anger management, depression, and medication as early as elementary school, having grown up in a society that tells children to “suck it up” – that their problems are nowhere near as serious as the problems of adults. Yet, despite this long-standing culture of silence, adolescents still struggle with their mental health. By middle school, almost half of my friend group experienced anxiety or depression as we began to feel the effects of social standards on our bodies, relationships, and futures.
It doesn’t take more than a few Google searches to realize that teenagers today are more depressed than ever. Whenever I discuss the relationship between mental health and teenagers with teachers or family, I usually receive the same three answers: we are simply overreacting, all teens are sad due to hormones, and there are more things to be upset about now than ever before.
Time to unpack all of this.
The first step in talking about mental health in teenagers is recognizing the fact that despite their young age, their emotions are valid – regardless of the situation around them. There are many mental health issues that a teenager can face, but depression is one of the most prevalent and grave. Approximately 20% of American teens go through depression before they reach adulthood and only 30% of them receive treatment, according to Psych Central. Even more upsetting is the fact that every 100 minutes in the United States, a youth suicide (ages 15-24) occurs. These statistics prove that the emotions these teenagers are feeling – even if they are partially due to hormones – have real-life consequences that cannot be ignored.
So what can be done to help teenagers grappling in, perhaps, a fight for their lives?
The answer could be therapy or counseling, which can allow kids to express their feelings and discuss their problems without judgment. Unfortunately, the stigma behind therapy is nearly indomitable as many young people see therapy as a place for weak or crazy people. As a result, they become scared or deny needing help.
When I began going to therapy, I was very open about it to my friends, teammates, and coaches so they could grasp a bit of what I was going through. Yet, oftentimes their first reaction is to instinctually give me unwarranted advice and attempt to psychoanalyze my life in three minutes. My extroversion allows me to correct people’s assumptions and tell them my personal experiences, but many people struggling with mental health issues do not want to risk judgement – so, once again, they struggle in silence.
Depression cannot be cured like a virus, and therapy may not be the solution for everyone. Regardless, a survey from 12 years ago recorded that 8.7 million people in America were being treated for depression, which had increased from 22 years ago with 6.5 million. Following this trend, there should be about 11 million Americans in treatment today. Therapy should be available to everyone without the fear of being ostracized for seeking help when it is needed. The image that society paints of being strong at all times must be torn down before we tear ourselves apart.
Therapy is a great option even for people without a mental illness. The ability to sit down with a professional without judgement is comforting and incredibly helpful if utilized properly. The stigma around a truly positive outlet for so many people has to end for the healing process and acceptance to begin.