By Ellen McGrath, published on June 1, 2002 - last reviewed on February 23, 2009
It's clear that many kids are breaking down in college. But most of the issues affecting them are at play well before they get to college age.
If you wish to understand what is happening with young adults, it's wise to focus on teenagers. We have all heard about the male loner who suddenly blows people up, like the pipe bomber or the Columbine kids. We are learning about the girls who are as aggressive as the boys but who are indirect in their aggression, the so-called mean girls syndrome. They are the most visible symbols of some disturbing trends.
By any measure, our young people are in trouble. Rates of depression and anxiety are soaring—and getting worse. Possibly one out of three teens will end up with significant clinical depression needing treatment. Their suicide rates have tripled.
We need to take action. If you are the parent or sibling of a teenager, or come in contact with them on a regular basis, there is information you need to have and strategies to adopt. I want to focus this article on teenage girls.
One of the best sources of information is The Inside Story on Teen Girls, by Alice Rubenstein, Ed.D., and Karen Zager, Ph.D. The book was published by the American Psychological Association.
You have to mobilize your values and realize that your exhaustion is not worth missing an opportunity to connect. In the long run connection produces more value than a night's sleep.
There are many reasons why depression is rampant in young people. They face unprecedented pressures to succeed. The college race is harder and more uncertain than ever. As the pressure has increased, so has anxiety, because adults aren't there to teach kids how to handle it. It's exploding in eating disorders, anxiety disorders and aggression.
This is the first generation of divorce, the product of absentee parents and lots of conflict.
Today's teens face more pressure for sexual activity earlier, a situation that can be very depressing for those who aren't ready or don't know what to do.
It's critical to go after depression in the young. We now know that there is a kindling effect: the younger you are when you get your first depression, the more at risk you are for serious adult depressions with more frequency. The faster anyone can pick up on depression and its signs in young people, the quicker they can be helped.