Helping News                                                   May, 2019   Issue 131

Report: Mental health issues on the rise in adolescents, young adults
By Andrew Cass [email protected] @AndrewCassNH on Twitter 
Mar 21, 2019

Major depression, serious psychological distress and other mental health issues have been on the rise in teenagers and young adults over the past decade, according to recently published research in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

"More U.S. adolescents and young adults in the late 2010s, versus the mid-2000s, experienced serious psychological distress, major depression or suicidal thoughts, and more attempted suicide,” lead author Jean Twenge said in a statement. “These trends are weak or non-existent among adults 26 years and over, suggesting a generational shift in mood disorders instead of an overall increase across all ages." Twenge is a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the author of the book “iGen.”

The authors of the study looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which has tracked mental health and other health-related issues since 1971. Their research focused on survey responses from more than 200,000 adolescents age 12 to 17 from 2005 to 2017, and almost 400,000 adults age 18 and older from 2008 to 2017.

They found that the rate of those reporting symptoms consistent with major depression the past year increased in adolescents from 8.7 percent to 13.2 percent from 2005 to 2017. In young adults ages 18 to 25 from 2009 to 2017 it jumped from 8.1 percent to 13.2 percent.

Rates of young adults experiencing experiencing serious psychological distress in the previous 30 days increased from 7.7 percent to 13.1 percent from 2008 to 2017. Over that same period young adults with suicidal thoughts or other-suicide-related outcomes increased from 7 to 10.3 percent, according to researchers.

Twenge said in her statement that she believes the trend may be in part due to increased use of electronic communication and social media, “which may have changed modes of social interaction enough to affect mood disorders.”

She also said that research shows that young people are not sleeping as much as they did in previous generations.

“Cultural trends in the last 10 years may have had a larger effect on mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes among younger generations compared with older generations," she said.

Twenge and her colleagues did not find a significant increase in the percentage of older adults experiencing depression or psychological distress over the same time periods. They found a slight decline in psychological distress in those over 65.

Increases in digital media use could have a bigger impact on teens and young adults because older adults’ social lives are “more stable and might have changed less than teens' social lives have in the last 10 years,” Twenge said. Older adults might also be less likely to use digital media in a way that interferes with sleep, she added.

"These results suggest a need for more research to understand how digital communication versus face-to-face social interaction influences mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes and to develop specialized interventions for younger age groups," Twenge said.

Locally, Crossroads offers programs and services to teens that offer a proactive approach to mental health.
Jamie Deakins, a consultation, training and education specialist and school-based provider at Crossroads, said with much of their programming they try to have teens’ peers, rather than adults, talking about mental health issues. He said it really tends to sink and have a higher impact when these conversations are coming from their peers.

“They’re experts in their age group,” Deakins said. “As adults we don’t exactly know everything that young people are going through today. We have an idea, but they’re the experts in living it. Their approaches and their ideas are something we always need to be aware of.”

Deakins said that reducing stigma is “by far the number one priority.”
“You see it all the time, people are hesitant to get help,” he said.

Deakins said the main program they do in schools is the Crossroads Youth Leadership Training. It’s an interactive, single-day program with skill-building workshops for youth ambassadors.

“We talk about things like mental health conditions and how they can be a support and how they can be an ally,” Deakins said. “And then we really start strategizing with them on schools like maybe even doing changes within school, like environmental changes like putting up posters.”

Another program is called Red Flags. It’s a peer-teaching-peers program for high school and middle school students, Deakins said. Students learn how to teach their peers how to identify signs and symptoms of someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. They also learn how to assist them.

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