What do people think is the main cause of teenage depression?
This was my first question when approaching the topic of increased teen depression in New Zealand.
Many will have different answers including social media, technology, societal demands, relationships, parental pressure, schooling. The list could go on and on, and I would get nowhere with my research, just listing endless reasons.
Figuring out why many teenagers are depressed will also contribute to figuring out why it is increasing, and much more rapidly than the general public may believe.
According to a University of Otago study, teenage depression has more than doubled since the 1980s, and one of the leading researchers states that the "rise in the prevalence of depression has major consequences for the current generation of young people". What's more, their studies also show it could "affect the mental health of their children and even further generations".
Although this study shows the statistics behind teenage depression, I wanted to investigate the opinions of the general public.
The real question is: why are the rates of depression increasing in such a well-developed country?
Even with an inter-agency youth suicide prevention strategy being launched in New Zealand in 1998, why has this been almost the only action the Government has taken for mental health-related issues?
It shows the Ministry of Health has either not been putting priority on depression, or not funding enough research into depression and other mental health-related issues.
One student I interviewed, who has been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, commented that he believes the Ministry of Health lacks funding, resulting in a lack of education in school.
Usually schools push for academic achievement "over anything else", which pushes prioritisation away from mental health. This creates an "unhealthy amount of pressure on teens", a parent I interviewed commented.
He believed "a lot of them [school counsellors] don't listen".
They don't give good advice like a psychologist would but, with them being so expensive, then free, accessible advice would be really beneficial.
"From my experience, school counsellors don't tell you how to deal with how you are feeling, and they also give little to no advice to parents on how to help with their suicidal teens. Parents can struggle too."
The student was one of the only people I interviewed to mention parental struggles, which is a major factor into increased teen depression.
Many parents do not understand mental health issues because they have not been educated on them while they were growing up.
Studies show that teenagers around the age of 15-16 are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression than their parents were at that age, which shows parents were also not surrounded by the suffocating environment teens are now. This should be a sign to the Government that, with more funding into education on mental health-related issues, it would help lower the risk of suicide, or developing depression at such a young age.
I think one of the main causes of this major increase of teenage depression over the last few decades is societal expectations; and many others seem to agree.
I interviewed a wide range of people, ranging from the ages of 15 to 52, and each one seemed to agree that societal standards and social media have a large impact on teenagers today.
The standards that teenagers have to live up to today are getting higher and higher each year, as new trends, new technology, etc, develop or are created. This causes a "lack in self-esteem", Mahina, 15, told me, and also causes many teenagers to hold such high standards over themselves to do or be better.
This lack of self-esteem can relate back to school pressure, as teens are brought up with the toxic idea of "school over everything".
A high school graduate mentioned depression has been normalised and watered down, as teenagers' parents have the "suck it up" mentality.
This can lead to more serious underlying issues in the teens but also the parents. The University of Otago study shows that children of parents with early onset or persistent depression are more than four times likely to be depressed at the age of 15, compared to those who do not have parents who have suffered from depression. This can also be accounted for parents who have undiagnosed depression as well.
Problems can arise from a lack of education for both teenagers and parents, including physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse - causing teenagers to develop depression because of trauma.
The main reason in New Zealand for its increased rates of teen depression in the past few decades has been that the Ministry of Health and Government have not been putting enough priority on mental health-related issues or education.
If more money and research went into these issues, many problems will be resolved, and rates of diagnosing depression will begin to go down, and a safer and more widely accepted environment created.
• Madison Wood is 16 years old from Auckland.
Where to get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737