American youth are facing a mental health crisis of tremendous proportions, as new data shows rates of suicide and depression have skyrocketed in the past decade. Professor of psychology Jean Twenge explained that new government research, specifically the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reveal a “staggering” epidemic of mental health problems. The suicide rate among 18- to 19-year-olds has increased 56% in the years 2008 to 2017. In that same time-span, anxiety and hopelessness among 18 to 25-year-olds has risen 71%. Depression among 20 and 21-year-olds has more than doubled from 2009 to 2017. Among 16 and 17-year-olds depression grew 69%.
The mental health issues were particularly dire for females. By 2017, the data reveals that approximately 20% of 12 to 17-year-old girls had experienced “major depression”. “The large increases in mental health issues appeared almost exclusively among teens and young adults, with less change among Americans 26 and over,” Twenge noted. “We found that depression and suicidal thoughts were much higher among those born in the 1990s, the generation of youth tethered to their iphones and digital devices. Twenge does she think academic pressures are to blame since teens today spend less time on homework on average than teens during the 1990s.
“But there was one societal shift over the past decade that influenced the lives of today’s teens and young adults more than any other generation: the spread of smartphones and digital media,” Twenge said, offering her diagnosis. This has disproportionately affected their lives because the technology has shaped their social behaviours and ordered their everyday activities in a way unknown to previous generations who may use it, she explained. “The rise in mental health issues among teens and young adults deserves attention.’ With more young people attempting suicide, the mental health crisis among American young people can no longer be ignored.”
She is urging parents to reconsider how much access they give their kids to smartphones urging parents to delay giving their children a smartphone until eighth grade. “When you talk to your kids they’re going to consider you an authority, and they’re going to come to you when they have a question,” she said. Smartphones impair sleep, interfere with relationships, increase risk for anxiety and depression and put children at risk of cyberbullying. Danny Huerta, a licensed clinical social worker at Focus on the Family, said young people are “seeking authenticity and our brain does not register online things as authentic creating a sense of depression, anxiety, and stress,”
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