Clinical Corner: Teen Depression

By: Swati Kumar, MD, Research Coordinator, Rutgers Institute for Health 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a high prevalence of mental health issues in teenagers in the United States. As older adults are reconnecting with their families and friends after limitations imposed by COVID-19, teens also depend heavily on their peers and social connections for support.  Therefore, restrictions put in place to contain COVID-19 may be particularly difficult for teens.  

Even prior to the pandemic, about 7.7 million children and young adults experienced at least one mental health disorder, with approximately half of them untreated. Despite the overall emergency department visits declining during the pandemic, mental health related pediatric emergency department visits increased during 2021-22. 12- to 17-year-olds accounted for the highest proportion of mental health-related visits totaling 69% of all psychological related visits.  

Teen depression is a serious mental health problem that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities. Depression symptoms can vary in severity. Emotional changes could include crying spells, anger, hopelessness, annoyance, loss of interest in friends and family and an array of others. Behavioral changes could include loss of energy, loss of appetite, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal ideations. 

If depressive symptoms start to interfere in your daily life and activities, it could indicate that it’s time to see a health professional. You can also call the suicide hotline at 800-273-TALK (#suicidepreventionlifeline) or reach out to friends and family for support. Spirituality and meditation have also been shown to be beneficial. If a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, lend an ear and really listen to what they have to say, but don’t try to be an expert. If someone is depressed, it’s important for them to seek professional advice.

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