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Why are Teens Struggling With Mental Health Issues in the U.S.?

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  • Digital Team 

U.S. teens’ mental health is in crisis. Self-harm, suicide, and depression are rising among the adolescents of America. In 2023, over 20% of teens aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depression episode. Nearly 13.4% of adolescents thought of committing suicide in 2022. 

In 2022, a 13-year-old girl in suburban Minneapolis committed suicide because the despair was too much to take. Linda, her mother, had noticed a decline in her daughter’s mental health over the past two years. Her daughter was experiencing severe depression, engaging in self-harm, and had even attempted suicide. 

The tragic story of Linda’s daughter underscores the alarming state of mental health among U.S. teens today. But the question is, why are so many U.S. teens struggling with mental health? We’ll answer that here. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some factors that contribute to mental health issues in adolescents. 

3 Factors That Contribute to Mental Health Issues in Teens

Here are some factors that affect the mental health of teens: 

1. The Pressure to Succeed

Teens face immense pressure to excel academically. This excessive academic pressure causes emotional changes in teens, leading to mental illnesses such as depression in the long run. The competition for college admissions has never been fiercer, and this pressure often starts as early as middle school. 

Parents constantly remind teens that they need to get perfect grades, participate in numerous extracurricular activities, and achieve high standardized test scores. This relentless push leads to overwhelming stress and anxiety among them.  

Some psychological models suggest that individuals who are achievement-oriented are more at risk of depression. That is because they are mainly focused on performance rather than mastery goals. Thus, the inability to compete with peers successfully can result in low self-esteem due to thoughts of inadequacy. 

2. Excessive Use of Social Media 

Social media is beneficial for teens since it allows them to connect with people who share the same interests and abilities. However, its overuse can harm their mental health. 

Teens must not spend more than one to two hours a day on social media. Research, however, suggests that more than half—or 51%—of adolescents spend 4.8 hours, on average, on social media daily.  

Excessive use of social media rewires the brains of teenagers to constantly seek out immediate gratification. Thus, it results in obsessive, compulsive, and addictive behaviors. Moreover, it worsens ADHD, depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia. 

One study linked Facebook use with eight major psychological effects. These include perceived depression, anxiety, loneliness, eating disorders, self-esteem issues, life satisfaction, insomnia, and stress. 

TorHoerman Law informs that Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, is facing lawsuits. Dozens of states in the U.S. are suing Meta for harming the mental health of young people.  

The Instagram and Facebook lawsuit alleges that the platform knowingly designed and deployed dangerous features that addict children and teenagers. They also allege that Meta obtains data on children under 13 without gaining parental consent or informing them. These lawsuits seek financial damages as well as a halt to Meta’s unlawful conduct. 

3. Family Dynamics

Teens’ mental health is also influenced by family dynamics. Those who experience abuse, neglect, or conflict within their nuclear family are more susceptible to developing anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions. 

Studies have also demonstrated that poor family environments, such as a lack of warmth and affection and family conflict, can have detrimental effects on students’ mental health. In such environments, students often do not receive the emotional support they need from their family members. Emotional neglect can lead to problems such as anxiety, depression, and difficulties in forming healthy relationships outside the family.

Conversely, positive family dynamics can result in reduced anxiety and depression, increased self-esteem, and improved overall psychological well-being. 

5 Ways You Can Help Teens Struggling With Mental Health Problems

Here are some strategies that you can adopt to help your teen struggling with mental health problems:

  • Listen to your teens’ concerns without interrupting or offering immediate solutions. Understand their problems and show empathy
  • Encourage them to take break from social media and engage in offline activities so that they don’t get addicted
  • Make sure they get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night
  • Ensure they exercise regularly, as it can help reduce stress and improve mood
  • Seek professional help if your child exhibits signs of mental health issues like isolation from friends and family, aggression or irritability, or engaging in substance abuse

Wrapping it up, teens’ mental health struggles are a complex issue. There is no single cause behind it but a multitude of factors, such as academic pressure, social media overload, and family dynamics. Economic stressors such as parental job loss or financial instability also affect teens’ mental health since they create a tense environment at home. 

You can, however, support your teens’ mental health by lending an ear, minimizing screen time, and prioritizing healthy sleep habits. Rest assured that they will thrive emotionally as well as mentally.

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