Recent studies show that a quarter of girls (24%) and one in 10 boys (9%) are depressed at age 14.

Researchers at UCL Institute of Education and the University of Liverpool analysed information extracted from the Millennium Cohort Study, in which 10,000 children participated, and found shockingly high statistics involving the percentage of adolescents who claim they present with depressive symptoms. The percentages given showed that 24 percent of girls and 9 percent of boys suffer from depression.

These statics, however, contrasted that of those reported by the children’s parents when they were asked about whether they thought their child displayed symptoms of depression. The percentage they gave displayed that 18 percent of the girls and 12 percent of boys showed symptoms of depression. The fact that there was a sizable gap in the parents figures compared to children’s stresses the importance for parents to regard their children’s mental state closely.

All of this raises many questions as to what may be causing this depressive behaviour. 

One argument may be that adolescents are pressurised far too much by the expected standard of their academic achievements through schools and society. Schools and society often appear to claim that in order to prosper in life, you must achieve good grades, be the perfect student, and work tirelessly. All of these so called “required” fulfillments leave many, many students feeling that they are simply not accomplishing enough to succeed, and this can then lead to the increasingly common depressive emotions. 
A student can also feel constrained to taking the “conventional” path in education, attending a high-achieving secondary school, a successful sixth form, and then either move on to working a credible job or at a commended university. These expectations can be very harming, as once the child does not gain the perfect grade, or when they aren’t accepted into the schools they apply to, they feel lost and because they haven’t been taught anything except the conventional education system, they believe they won’t be able to take any other routes to achieving where they want to be. 

Another factor impacting the mentality of millennials is social media, and the hidden expectations of popularity and peer pressuring. Social media is ever-progressing and becoming more involved in each generation as they come, and therefore plays a very large role in a child’s mental state as they believe that they have to get the most likes, have the most followers, be the prettiest on instagram and overall appear to live the “perfect” online life.

As the child fights to “survive” and keep their head up by both attaining the best grades as well as their picture-perfect online life, they become overwhelmed with these burdens and therefore spiral into depression when they feel they can’t meet the world’s standards. 

Schools should question the strain they are placing on the children, and consider a more holistic point of view. They should acknowledge children’s own individual strengths, not just meeting them to passing level, and encourage them to thrive in their strong areas, as well as refining their more challenged subjects. There should be awareness drawn not only to the child’s physical wellbeing, but also their mental wellbeing from the early ages of primary school all the way through secondary. By taking these steps, it ensures that the children can progress and thrive, happy in their own achievements before it is too late and they begin to succumb under the worldly demands. 

Written by: Kate Dawson from Thames Christian College