Seeking Light in Darkness a Common Practice

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Adrianna Faulkner, Staff Reporter

“The only thing that will make you happy is being happy with who you are, and not who people think you are.” -Goldie Hawn

Rates of depression in teens are higher than ever. According to a 2019 report from the surgeon general, one in three high school students reported “persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, an overall increase of 40% from 2009.” According to the CDC, the percentage of people between the ages of 6 and 17 who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011-2012. Many would say that this is due to more attention on mental health, therefore, more diagnoses are being made. This is true; more light is being shed on mental health. But we may consider that other factors such as misdiagnoses and social media are affecting 

You might be thinking that misdiagnoses are a typical part of the medical process or that they don’t happen that often, but according to the US National Library of Medicine, misdiagnosis rates for major depressive disorder reached 65.9%. Misdiagnosis of depression and anxiety remains a huge problem in the United States. I believe more focus on emotions while talking about mental health is important. The way a person feels can determine a wide range of things like: what they do, how they act, and how they respond to outside stimuli.

A possible reason that people are being misdiagnosed at such high levels is because the symptoms of depression are quite vague. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, features a long list of symptoms for major depressive disorder, some including “depressed mood” and “feelings of worthlessness.” Being in a “depressed mood” is fairly self-explanatory, but feeling “worthless” can vary from emptiness, to loneliness, to feeling rejected or excluded.

Emptiness is certainly a symptom of depression, but it often gets confused with other emotions, such as indifference. Feeling worthless is feeling like your life has no value or that no one cares about you. Meanwhile, feeling indifferent is like you’re not feeling one way or the other. For example, if a doctor does not further investigate those symptoms, they could be misinterpreted by both the patient and the doctor. Feeling indifferent is construed as being a bad thing when it’s not. Of course, the use of these words and the intention behind them depend on the tone of the person’s voice. 

One thing we might consider is how social media affects people’s mental state. With social media, it is often hard to tell the tone that someone means their words to be read in. Given that teens have higher rates of depression and they also have greater access to social media, it is possible that the two are connected in some way. When someone scrolls through their social media page, there is an abundant amount of photos that feature celebrities smiling and enjoying their lavish lives. It is easy to consciously dismiss these pictures, but perhaps they trick our mind into thinking that we aren’t happy.

A report from the surgeon general says: “While technology platforms have improved our lives in important ways, increasing our ability to build new communities, deliver resources, and access information, we know that… they can also have adverse effects. When not deployed responsibly and safely, these tools can… reinforce negative behaviors like bullying and exclusion, and undermine the safe and supportive environments young people need and deserve.”