Definition of Depression and How Common It is in Teens and Young Adults
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, depression is “a mood disorder that is marked by varying degrees of sadness, despair, and loneliness and that is typically accompanied by inactivity, guilt, loss of concentration, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.” It’s usually a result of common experiences, such as increased stress and/or an emotional event, such as loss of a loved one. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, adolescents aged 12 – 17 years had the highest rate of depressive episodes at 14.4% followed by young adults aged 18 – 25 years at 13.8%. Statistics show rates of depression in teens and young adults have increased significantly over the last 50 years. For a discussion of sadness vs. depression and causes of depression, please see this blog.
Factors That Contribute to Developing Depression and Problematic Signs and Symptoms
The graphic below summarizes contributing factors and signs of depression by age group.
When looking at behaviors, be aware of what is typical for your teen or young adult. Especially note things that seem out of the ordinary and are causing avoidance or extreme distress. LGBTQIA+ individuals are at significantly higher risk for developing depression than those who don’t identify as such. The more risk factors present in your teen or young adult’s home, school, and/or work environments, the more likely they are to develop depression.
Self-Harm in Teens and Young Adults
“Self-harm” is characterized by deliberately injuring oneself to alleviate emotional distress. It’s commonly associated with depression; however, someone does not have to be depressed to engage in harming themselves. Self-harming is not necessarily indicative of thoughts of suicide, however, the two are associated. The most common form of self-harm is cutting or scratching the skin and is oftentimes covered by clothing so you may not notice. It can also include burning oneself; picking at skin, blemishes, and/or wounds; pulling hair; and/or hitting oneself. Self-harm occurs more often in girls and the onset is most often around the time of puberty, with the average age of 13-14 years old. Someone who has engaged in self-harm 20 or more times is 3½ times as likely to attempt suicide compared to those who have engaged in less self-injury incidents.
Signs of Self-Harm in Teens and Young Adults
The graphic below summarizes contributing factors of depression and signs of self-harming by age group.
If you know or suspect your teen or young adult is engaging in self-harming behavior, please have them evaluated by a mental health professional as soon as possible. An assessment will evaluate their level of safety, including any thoughts or plans of suicide that may be present. Erring on the side of caution could possibly prevent their death.
Depression, Self-Harm, and Suicide in Teens and Young Adults
Just as depression is associated with self-harm, it is also associated with thoughts of suicide. To be clear, the association does not mean that suicidal ideation will lead to or is the cause of suicide. Additionally, suicide is often associated with a family history of suicide attempts; exposure to violence; impulsivity; aggressive and/or disruptive behaviors; bullying; feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and acute loss or rejection. Please keep in mind the signs and symptoms of depression and self-harm if you are a concerned parent and get professional help for your child as soon as possible.
Suicide Facts You Need to Know About Teens and Young Adults
According to the American Association of Suicidology, ⅔ of those who commit suicide struggle with depression. The association also stated the risk of suicide is about 20x greater among those diagnosed with Major Depression in comparison to those without Major Depression. Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that suicide is the second leading cause of death among age-groups 10-14 and 15-24. In California in 2019, there were 157 recorded deaths by suicide for ages 15-19 and 341 for ages 20-24.
I hope this blog was helpful in providing information on depression, self-harm, and suicide in teens and young adults.
For more information on Small Town Counseling services for teens and young adults, what to expect, and/or scheduling an appointment check out our Teen and Young Adult Counseling Services or call 209-968-1707. FAQs and resources for depression are available in our Good Reads! For additional parenting resources visit Parenting Resources.
I Want to Feel Something: Depression and Its Association with Self-Harm and Suicide in Teens and Young Adults is written by David Cayton, M.A, M.S.. David has experience as a mental health professional working with children, teens, and professionals, an academic advisor, education-based research assistant, and student affairs at colleges and universities. At the time of this publishing, David Cayton is Trainer and Research Associate at Small Town Counseling® a group mental health practice located in California that helps individuals, groups, and organizations in promoting mental wellness and education on trauma and anxiety through mental health services and training.
American Association of Suicidology. (2009). Some Facts About Suicide and Depression. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from https://www.cga.ct.gov/asaferconnecticut/tmy/0129/Some%20Facts%20About%20Suicide%20and%20Depression%20-%20Article.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
Child Mind Institute/Common Sense Media. (n.d.). I’m Worried my Kid is Self-Injuring. What Can I Do? Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/mental-health/im-worried-my-kid-is-self-injuring-what-can-i-do
Kids Data. (2021). Number of Youth Suicides, by Age Group. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from www.kidsdata.org/topic/211/suicides-age/table#fmt=123&loc=2,127,347,1763,331,348,336,171,321,345,357,332,324,369,358,362,360,337,327,364,356,217,353,328,354,323,352,320,339,334,365,343,330,367,344,355,366,368,265,349,361,4,273,59,370,326,333,322,341,338,350,342,329,325,359,351,363,340,335&tf=124&ch=1309,446,1308,787
Klonsky, E. D., Victor, S. E., & Saffer, B. Y. (2014). Non-suicidal self-injury: What we know, and what we need to know. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 59(11) 565-568. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4244874/
Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Self-Injury/Cutting. Retrieved on February 7, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350950
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/depression
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Major Depression. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Suicide. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide
Psycom. (2020). Depression Definition and DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from https://www.psycom.net/depression-definition-dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/
The Trevor Project. (2021). The Trevor Project National Survey 2020. Retrieved on October 26, 2021, from https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=introduction
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Results From the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-detailed-tables