Around the globe, suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people, ages 15-29 (click here). The annual rate of 800,000 suicides amounts to one person taking his or her life every 40 seconds. It has no boundaries of age, gender, class, or religion.
In the United States, the data on suicide frequency and depression is not particularly encouraging. Markham Heid wrote a Time Magazine article, Depression and Suicide Rates Are Rising Sharply in Young Americans, New Report Says. This May Be One Reason Why, and cites:
Between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression among kids ages 14 to 17 increased by more than 60%, the study found. The increases were nearly as steep among those ages 12 to 13 (47%) and 18 to 21 (46%), and rates roughly doubled among those ages 20 to 21. In 2017—the latest year for which federal data are available—more than one in eight Americans ages 12 to 25 experienced a major depressive episode, the study found.
These statistics on depression in the US are frightening. If we keep our heads in the sand, denying the scope of the problem, then the needs of young Americans are being ignored. Citing a study from National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one of the study’s co-authors says:
There is an overwhelming amount of data from many different sources, and it all points in the same direction: more mental health issues among American young people.
The Time’s article and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health point to extensive research that draws a connection between heavy smartphone and social media usage and adolescent depression. While drawing an absolute connection between the two is premature, there is sufficient evidence that warrants being concerned and maybe alarmed.
What will families and schools do to address this challenge? Will we turn our heads away from the obvious and worry more about academic performance metrics or will be confront these issues with curiosity and creativity? If we want to serve all students responsibly then we have to be relentless about confronting this societal problem.