The high school suicide epidemic



Signs and statistics relating to depression.

Abigail Jager, Staff Writer

Every 100 minutes, a teen loses his or her life to suicide. More teens than ever, nearly 20 percent, experience depression before they reach adulthood. There are a variety of reasons why teens experience depression, known factors including abuse and neglect, family history of mental illnesses, substance abuse disorder, trauma at home, and other untreated mental illnesses (Center for Discovery). 

Depression causes feelings of extreme sadness and/or loss of interest in activities that one would usually enjoy. People can experience depression at any point in their lives for any duration of time, but it is most common to occur in the late teens to early twenties. A variety of symptoms accompanying depression, beside those mentioned above, include changes in appetite, changes in sleeping pattern, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts or actions. 

Many teens may have a personal crisis at home or within their families that can lead to mental health problems, whether direct or inadvertent. Early childhood trauma or abuse often also plays a role in a teen’s mental health. Depression can also run in a family’s genetics and give a person a hereditary predisposition to it. Another lesser-known cause of depression is linked to biochemistry, a branch of science associated with the chemical processes that occur inside a living organism. Certain chemical imbalances in the brain can contribute to feelings of depression ( 

Many people believe that social media is the leading cause of depression in teens, and current studies show that social media can have an impact on mental health. According to the American Psychiatric Association, time spent online using various social media sites did not strongly affect depressive symptoms, although having negative experiences online did contribute (Psychiatry Online).  

On the other hand, senior Marissa Wheaton expressed, “Yes. I think people online romanticize mental illnesses and that makes people who actually have these mental illnesses feel invalidated.”  

It is sometimes hard for teens with mental health issues to get the help and support they need. Reasons being that they do not know from whom they can receive it, how to address their issues, or how to pay for these resources. As a result of this, there are several free and anonymous resources that teens can use.  

The Hawk conducted anonymous interviews with six students and teachers of Decatur to determine the knowledge of and opinions on mental health in our school. 

  1. In your opinion, why would you think the rate of depression in high school teens is rising? 

Interviewee 1: “Because more people are aware of mental illness and when people see these symptoms in themselves, they see psychiatrists and psychologists and get diagnosed.” 

Interviewee 3: “I think it’s a combination of poor diet, lack of physical exercise, and the overuse of technology and social media.” 

Interviewee 4: “The time of year like seasonal depression, school stress, Donald Trump, also it can hit you at any time in your life and can come out of nowhere.” 

  1. Have you or a friend experienced a period of depression in your life caused by school or an outside force? If you feel comfortable, explain. 

Interviewee 4: “Yes, right now my mom and I don’t have a good relationship. I just don’t feel okay when I wake up in the morning.” 

Interviewee 5: “Yes, the pressure from college and being in a sorority and a dance company and I was juggling twenty-one credits. I felt like my life was out of my control.” 

Interviewee 6: “Yes, I’ve dealt with bullying and I lost my cousin to suicide which made things very hard.” 

  1. In your opinion, do you think teen substance abuse causes depression? 

Interviewee 4: “Yes, alcohol definitely does because it’s a depressant and certain substances can affect people’s mood negatively.” 

  1. Do you think teens use substances because they are depressed? 

Interviewee 5: “Yes, they try to self-medicate with drugs which doesn’t work for everyone.” 

If anyone is feeling as though they are at risk of committing suicide or self-harm, they can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If people are too nervous to call and speak to a person, they can text 741-741 which will connect them to a crisis counselor. Sometimes there is a wait, so they send a link to a quiz with a few simple questions that help connect a person to a counselor that best fits his or her situation. Another helpful website is, which connects users to trained listeners, therapists, and counselors. It is also completely free and anonymous.