A Growing Curve
All the statistics show that depression and anxiety has been increasing at least 10% a year amongst teens since about 2010. In recent years, the curve has been increasing, getting steeper. Therefore, a lot of people have been asking what’s gone wrong here, and the church has asked these questions as well.
Adults play a vital role in helping teenagers through anxiety and depression, and this book gives spiritual encouragement and practical direction for parents and other adults who want to help but don’t know what to do. A companion volume to Murray’s Why Am I Feeling Like This?, written for teenagers.
If we look at the cultural changes, it comes down to pressure. Our teens are down to enormous pressure, academically especially, and sports also. There’s pressure from parents, school, colleges, sometimes peers, and sometimes themselves, and that puts an incredible strain on the body and the mind. So there’s that huge pressure.
Our teens have been raised in a post 9/11 world. Wars, terrorism, bombings, school shootings, a lot of social instability. Even our political institutions are very unstable with incredible tension, partisanship, a sense of America coming apart, and in other countries as well. There’s family instability—an awful lot of family breakdown—so that’s another big part of instability.
There's hyper stimulation—the brain never gets downtime—and the brain gets information overload. I don’t think our brains were built to have so much data in them. There’s the cyber bullying aspect of it as well. You can’t leave bullying behind you at school now; it comes into the bedroom with you. The comparisons on social media, too. So technology is another contributor.
The gospel of Christ can answer all of these things.
There's a lack of hope that many of our teens feel. They’re guilty, they feel ashamed, they’re worried; and yet, they have nothing to turn to. They don’t know God or the Bible and they are living in a culture that despises religion or says they’re all the same. They don’t know where they’re at, they don’t know how to get free from their habits—especially amongst teens with pornography. It brings an awful lot of guilt and shame, and they don’t know how to get rid of it. There’s also addictions of various kinds and substance abuse. The future looks bleak, and they don’t have much hope; they don’t have a reason to live, a purpose, or meaning in life.
The gospel of Christ can answer all of these things. In fact, it can affect all of the other areas as well—the pressure, instability, technology, and the spiritual piece as a whole. I think that’s where we want to start as a church. We want to start with addressing the spiritual needs, which will help in these other areas; but we can learn from the world, which is also worried about these areas and wants to help our teens cope better and therefore bring this curve down again.
David Murray is the author of Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This?.
One of the best things we can do for our teens is to explain to them that many teens suffer in the same way.
It's important to realize that anxiety and depression are different while being careful to realize that they do sometimes overlap.
Why is teen anxiety and depression on the rise, and what can parents do to help their children who are struggling?
Go to God and ask him to lead you into more understanding of the various factors involved in your child’s suffering: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and social.