• Health & Wellness
Zoe Kelly

Zoe Kelly '25 tells about mental health issues that plague the younger generation today, and how COVID-19 and social media are contributing to them.

Anxiety in teenagers is a growing concern in a world where COVID-19 is still dominant. A raging pandemic led nearly everyone to experience levels of worry and/or fear, but symptoms of anxiety in high school-aged students are a serious concern. 

Academic pressure has always impacted the lives of teenagers. High school students often feel overworked or unable to comprehend certain subjects. Anxiety levels have noticeably increased in students over the past two decades. In an NEA study completed in 2018, it was shown that nearly two-thirds of teenage students expressed that being overwhelmed by anxiety was a serious issue in their school. This issue was only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. While adjusting to a school setting in a global pandemic, students have had to accept policies, restrictions, and regulations while attempting to maintain their studies. Some high-achieving students even feel anxiety over the pressure to succeed, sometimes influenced by their parents. One potential cause of anxiety in this age demographic is the use of social media. Although it is not solely responsible for anxiety in students, it may be responsible for some. On social media, teenagers typically feel pressured to look, act, or be a certain way. Repeated use of social media can strongly influence feelings of anxiety. Because of these problems, anxiety is a concern that affects an overwhelming amount of students.

While anxiety is the more predominant mental health concern of high school-aged students, there is still a multitude of other mental health issues affecting the generation. Number two on the list of growing mental health problems in adolescents is depression. Feelings of depression and overall hopelessness is an issue in teenagers. The CDC reported that 1 in 3 high school students experiences these feelings, which is a 40% increase from a similar report in 2009. Suicidal ideation can develop from a prolonged struggle with anxiety and/or depression. The CDC also reported that one for every six students considered suicide in the year 2019, a staggering 44% increase from 10 years prior. 

While many teenagers report a struggle with mental health issues, many do not. Of the 7.1% of students under the age of 18 who have received an anxiety diagnosis, only 18% receive the help they need to combat these issues. Only 3.2% of minors are diagnosed with depression, but over 30% have felt depressive feelings in their lives. Certain demographics are more affected by depression than others. Nearly half of all LGBTQ+ minors have experienced depression and/or seriously considered suicide. 

We may never know the levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns in teenagers, but what we do know is how we can help. Being aware of symptoms of anxiety and depression in your peers can be beneficial. Avoiding social activities and school, persistent occurrences of irritability, and recurring worries are some of the more noticeable symptoms of anxiety and depression. Recognizing these traits and discussing them kindly with the one who is experiencing them can be of assistance. Cutting back on own social media use can even help to prevent a stronger feeling of anxiety or depression from setting in. 

Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression are issues in high school students. Knowing why mental health is declining, and how we can help ease these issues amid a pandemic can be a starting point in maintaining overall wellbeing in teenagers.