World Mental Health Day: Where U.S. Teens Stand in Global Standards & What’s Impacting Our Youth

The World Mental Health Day is on October 10th. The overall objective of the day, organized by the World Health Organization, is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people around the world.

Worldwide, 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Neuropsychiatric conditions are the leading cause of disability in young people in all regions. If untreated, these conditions severely influence children’s development, their educational attainments and their potential to live fulfilling and productive lives.

Tragically, America is one of the most depressed countries in the world. According to a report from the World Health Organization, in terms of quality years of life lost due to disability or death – a public health metric that is used to measure the overall burden of disease – America ranked third for unipolar depressive disorders, just after India and China.  The list is rounded out after America with, in descending order, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Germany.

Looking at just a one year period, the Atlantic reports a staggering 27% of US adults will experience a form of mental health disorder. In fact over an entire lifetime, the average American has a 47.4% chance of having a form of mental health disorder – or almost one in two people. And that’s not even taking into account eating disorders, personality disorders, and schizophrenia.

According to Mental Health America:

* 11.01% of youth (age 12-17) report suffering from at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year. Major Depression is marked by significant and pervasive feelings of sadness that are associated with suicidal thoughts and impair a young person’s ability to concentrate or engage in normal activities.

* 7.4% of youth (or 1.8 million youth) experienced severe depression. These youth experienced very serious interference in school, home and in relationships.

* 5.13% of youth in America report having a substance use or an alcohol problem.  

* 64.1% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment.

That means that 6 out of 10 young people who have depression and who are most at risk of suicidal thoughts, difficulty in school, and difficulty in relationships with others do not get the treatment needed to support them.

* Nationally, only 21.7% of youth with severe depression receive some consistent treatment (7-25+ visits in a year). Even among youth with severe major depression, 62.6% did not receive any mental health treatment.

A Happy Planet Index report named the “happiest” countries on the planet as (in descending order): Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Panama, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Ecuador. Conversely, the countries that see the highest suicide rates are (in descending order): Sri Lanka, Lithuania, Guyana, South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Suriname, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Latvia, and Hungary.  

Our youth in America need help. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Irritable or annoyed mood
  • Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • An ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide

The causes of teen depression are wide-ranging and while we may not know the exact cause in each case, a multitude of issues can be involved, including:

  • Biological chemistry. 
  • Hormones. 
  • Inherited traits. 
  • Early childhood trauma. 
  • Learned patterns of negative thinking. 

Furthermore, there are risk factors that can impact a younger person’s mind. They include:

  • Having issues that negatively impact self-esteem, such as obesity, peer problems, long-term bullying, or academic problems
  • Having been the victim or witness of violence, such as physical or sexual abuse
  • Having other conditions, such as bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, anorexia, or bulimia
  • Having a learning disability or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Having ongoing pain or a chronic physical illness such as cancer, diabetes, or asthma
  • Having a physical disability
  • Having certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem or being overly dependent, self-critical, or pessimistic
  • Abusing alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs
  • Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender in an unsupportive environment

At the end of the day, youth are more susceptible to depression because their brains are still in a state of flux and not yet fully matured. Other factors involved include:

Academic Stress

Social Anxiety/Peer Pressure

Romantic Problems

Separating/Divorcing Parents

Heredity

Family Financial Struggles

Physical/Emotional Neglect

Feelings of Helplessness

There is help, however – very real help. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is being proved, time and time again, to help people of all ages who suffer from major depression.  The efficacy rates are simply astonishing; over 3,500 papers have been published about TMS. One report discovered that TMS aided people who had treatment-resistant depression. They saw a 58% positive response rate and a 37% remissions rate. Another trial in 2010 showed that TMS led to a 14% remission rate compared to 5% without it. A second phase of the trial allowed all patients – including those who’d received placebo versions of TMS – to receive proper TMS and, astonishingly, remission rates rose to almost 30%. Of the patients who’ve claimed improvement from TMS, most state the benefits are still there three years later – and there are many people backing this up.

So for World Mental Health Day take a step back to look at the bigger picture. There are thousands of young people suffering from various forms of mental illness but there are treatments to help and, just as importantly, stigmas to destroy so they can get that help.