The “Depressing” Mental Health of Teenagers


Sara Kahn, Op-Ed Editor

Adolescence is often one of the most difficult periods of a person’s life—not only do teenagers face severe chemical changes in their brain as they go through puberty, but they also must deal with the stresses of everyday life. 

Many people think that teens’ stress is not valid; as high schoolers, adolescents live with their parents and go to school every day. However, this simplified outlook on the life of a teenager neglects to consider the work and expectations placed on today’s youth to achieve goals.

Upon first starting high school, many teenagers are thrust into a world that revolves around getting into college. Students endure constant questioning—”what are your plans for the future?”— as to their career aspirations. Much of the students’ focus is centered around where they plan to attend college. Now, more than ever before, college admissions are highly competitive. The top schools in the country (Stanford, Havard, Columbia, etc.) all have admissions rates of about six percent. 

Being accepted to a top-tiered college guarantees four more years of endless studying, sleepless nights, no free time or personal life, and most of all—more stress. Due to the pressure from the most competitive schools, students will go to great lengths to improve their test scores and chances of admission. Vanessa Qiu, a junior at Whippany Park, started SAT prep in ninth grade. In the two months before she took the SAT, she attended two SAT training summer camps for three hours a day, five days a week. 

At all times, Vanessa is under pressure to perform well in school. She explained that “Whenever college is brought up, it makes me stressed and depressed. It is an unnecessarily valued thing in our society, and if you don’t go you aren’t considered normal.”

Stress caused by the thought of college and constant schoolwork can have detrimental effects on teenagers’ mental health. In fact, academic expectations are one of the leading causes of teen depression. According to the Newport Academy, a therapy program for teenagers with mental health issues, 3.2 million adolescents suffered from at least one depressive episode in 2016. While 3.2 million may seem small, this is over fifteen percent of the teenage population—and that was three years ago!

Mental health is a major issue today, as the percentage of adolescents with depression is increasing. Less pressure must be placed on students in the college admission process and in school. If the current competitive climate continues, teenagers will never be able to enjoy their high school years.