Rise of Teen Depression Rates

Rise of Teen Depression Rates

Antoinette Aho, Editor-in-Chief

This article was initially submitted in the Sacramento Bee’s Journalist of the Year competition.

Nationally, the past decade has shown a spike in clinical depression and anxiety among teens – those between the ages of 12 and 17 have historically shown the highest rates of mental illnesses.

Locally, Cordova High School has seen an increase in the need for psychiatric help, as evidenced by the numerous mental health counselors on campus.

According to these counselors, this increase is caused primarily by negative experiences with home life, academics, or social pressures for students at CHS.

To aid the influx of students seeking mental health resources, over the past two years, four new counselors have been hired at CHS. Kristina Calander is one of the school’s two psychologists, and Charné Brown Powell is one of the two mental health specialists.

To receive counseling at Cordova, students must be referred by a parent, teacher, or they may request services themselves. Once the request has been made, the student’s academic counselor schedules an appointment with one of the school therapists.

While the type and number of counseling sessions depend on the student, they are initially offered a one-on-one session with either a school mental health specialist or psychologist. If needed, the student may schedule up to six sessions, once per week.

Calander, a psychologist, says that when students come to her office for assistance, she typically begins by advising holistic methods to ease their mental flare-ups. These include a healthier diet, exercise, and meditation exercises. One of the most recommended and efficient methods to alleviate depression is to create or find a strong community of support. Calander says, “When the student has a support system they know they have people on their team.”

If the student is having trouble implementing coping skills, or their condition continues to worsen, the school counselors will work to connect them with an off-campus counselor. “This allows them to have more time per session, and they have the opportunity to delve into more issues,” says Powell, a mental health specialist.

Throughout their tenure in the field, they have all seen a steady rise of students seeking counseling services. When analyzing the entire student body, records show that during the 2017-18 school year, there were a total of 174 student referrals. 19 percent of these students were identified as having symptoms of depression, the other 81 percent had issues relating to anxiety, stress, and grief. So far, the 2018-19 school year has seen 184 referrals, 28 percent of cases were identified as having depression symptoms.

The numbers have clearly increased, and according to Powell, students have begun to “beat the stigma” and are more prone to coming forward about their mental state. Powell has worked as a counselor for over 15 years, previously specializing as a marriage and family counselor, six of those years were at CHS. Initially, she worked on campus once a week, but over the years that increased to two days, now she works five days a week.

Powell says that compared to the 2016-17 school year, the number of students with depression has seen a 23 percent increase, and the number continues to steadily rise.

With the recent deaths of prominent celebrities such as Mac Miller, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain, teens have become more exposed to the conflict of mental illness, and the despair it may bring.

Powell says, “Suicide is a part of our culture now, more conversation has emerged, and people are slowly becoming more apt to the mental issues involved.” The spread of awareness has led parents, teachers, and friends to be more conscious of mental concerns. As a student mental health counselor, Powell has seen more parents referring their children for therapy. If parents do not know how to recognize symptoms, Calander says, “I do my best to reach out to family and anyone close to the student, to keep them informed.”

Although the numbers, locally and nationally, are not decreasing, the spread of awareness and exposure to mental health has, which as told by school mental health specialists, is the primary way to prevent the issue.