All the ways American teenagers are under enormous pressure to succeed

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World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10 is a day for global mental-health education and advocacy to reduce the social stigma of mental-health issues.

The pressure to do succeed in academics starts at an early age.

Anxiety and depression are on the rise among American teenagers. Over 70% of teenagers say they see these mental-health issues as major problems among their peers, according to a report released last month by the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The group surveyed 10,683 teenagers aged 13 to 17 in September 2018 and October 2018.

Concern about mental-health cuts across income, racial and gender lines.

“Concern about mental-health cuts across gender, racial and socioeconomic lines, with roughly equal shares of teens across demographic groups saying it is a significant issue in their community,” it said. A substantial share of teenagers still say bullying, drug addiction and alcohol consumption is a “major problem” rather than a “minor problem” or “not a problem.”

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Here’s what the report found:

• 6 in 10 teens say they feel a lot of pressure to get good grades.

• 7 in 10 said both anxiety and depression are a “major problem.”

• More than 50% said alcohol and drug addiction is a “major problem”

• 3 in 10 teens are under pressure to look good and fit in socially.

Girls are more likely than boys to say they plan to attend a four-year college (68% versus 51%, respectively) and they’re also more likely to say they’re concerned about getting into the school of their choice, the report said. Current patterns in college enrollment among 18- to 20-year-olds reflect that gender gap. Teens in wealthier households are also more likely to say they’ll attend college.

About 7 in 10 teenagers in households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more say they plan to attend a four-year college after they finish high school compared to just over half of those teenagers in households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $74,999; only 42% of teenagers in households with annuals incomes below $30,000 say the same.

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Previous research has made a connection between social-media usage and mental health. A 2015 study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking suggested young people who are heavy users of social media — spending more than 2 hours a day — are more likely to report poor mental health and psychological distress, symptoms of which include anxiety and depression.

What’s more, teenagers suffering from depression or anxiety often use smartphones as a coping skill rather than learning to sit with their emotions and developing relationships, according to Cole Rucker, co-founder and chief executive of Paradigm Malibu, an adolescent mental health and drug abuse treatment center. He calls it a “negative coping style” to avoid processing feelings.

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There were 115,856 visits to hospitals by children who attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts between 2008 and 2015, according to a separate report published last year in Pediatrics, the official journal from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The annual percentage of visits by children for those two reasons almost doubled, from 0.66% in 2008 to 1.82% in 2015.

More teenagers arrived at hospitals with feelings of despair.

More teens than younger children arrived at hospitals with such feelings of despair. “Significant increases were noted in all age groups, but were higher in adolescents 15 to 17 years old and adolescents 12 to 14 years old,” the report said. The rise coincided with the spring and fall semesters of school, and dipped during the summer, suggesting that issues are compounded in school.

Younger children who died by suicide more often experienced relationship problems with family members and friends and less often had boyfriend/girlfriend problems or left a suicide note, a separate study published last year in Pediatrics found. Among those with mental-health problems, childhood suicides more often involved attention-deficit disorder and depression in older children.

Also read: The secret life of the American teenager

The American Association of Poison Control Centers has said it observed a 50% increase in “intentional exposures” — that is, potential suicide attempts — by adolescents from 2012 to 2016. In 2016, poison centers managed more than 76,500 cases of intentional exposures in young adults. Poisoning is the third most common form of suicide nationwide, after gun shot and suffocation.

The increase in suicides was far lower than the rates of actual attempts or suicidal thoughts. The suicide rate was 2.6 per 100,000 in 2014 for males aged 10 to 14 and 18.2 per 100,000 for males aged 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, versus 1.5 per 100,000 in the same year for females aged 10 to 14 and 4.6 per 100,000 females aged 15 to 24.

(This story was updated on Oct. 10, 2019.)

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