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Conquering the Stigma Surrounding Depression in High School Students

Many people are unaware of the true impact that depression has on high school students. Students and parents often assume that because depression may not affect them, it doesn’t affect many others either. However, this thought process is what creates such a hostile school atmosphere for those who struggle with both depression and anxiety. Because of this lack of awareness, a stigma is created. Depression is thought of as a “abnormal” or “weird” disorder, and people tend to think less of those who have it. However, students do not realize the impact that this stigma has on those who struggle with depression, and how much harder it makes their school life as they try to deal with it. In order to create a safer and more comfortable school environment for those struggling with depression, we must #conquerthestigma.

How many high school students experience depression? 20% of adolescents will experience depressive symptoms by the time they become adults. Additionally, 3.1 million young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year in the United States. Each of these statistics demonstrates the abundant presence of depression in high school communities that people tend to overlook or fail to understand. Below is an infographic that I created that discusses depression in teen girls, suicide, and the stigma attached to both.

Unawareness is my community:

How does stigma have a negative impact?

The main issue caused by the stigma surrounding depression is that it causes many teens with depression to feel unable and uncomfortable to reach out and seek help. Because of this, 60% of adolescence with depression do not receive any treatment or help. They are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek help because of the negative views that their peers have of depression.

MY SOLUTION: My main solution to the problem of stigma surrounding depression in my high school community is to spread awareness. One of the best ways to decrease the stigma surrounding depression is to educate both the students and their parents about depression. I plan on doing this through spreading flyers around my school, and through working with the counselors at my school to hold a meeting during an assembly period in which people can come and discuss depression and how to be supportive and empathetic to those who have it. As of right now, the projected date for this meeting is Thursday, May 9. This meeting will be a chance for anyone who wants to to voice their opinion and ask questions surrounding both depression and the stigma attached to it. Through this meeting, my goal is to spread more awareness and educate people about the importance of empathy and understanding.

Below are pictures of the flyers that I will hang around my campus:

Why does this matter? Obviously, depression has a large presence in high school communities, so through conquering the stigma, there would be positive effects. People with depression would feel more comfortable seeking help, so the high rates of depression could potentially decrease, as people continue to seek help and treatment. Depression not only affects those who have it, but those around them as well. From experience, I know that having a loved one suffer through depression is an extremely painful thing to witness. Something that is important to understand is that people who go through depression and anxiety are in serious pain that no one seems to understand, and we need to find a way to help them. Any little thing that can be done to decrease depression rates in the slightest is worth it. Helping those who are struggling around you MATTERS, and that is why I chose this project.

A Call to Change: I challenge YOU to make a vow to try your hardest to spread awareness and empathy throughout your school community. Take the reflective survey and sign this pledge (if you so desire) to indicate the effort that you are willing to put in to #conquerthestigma and make positive changes to your school community. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/62ZWT7Q

Overall, the most important change you can make to reduce the stigma is to create conversation. Through starting discussions and spreading awareness in your community, you will make a huge impact. It is important to understand that yes, starting a campaign or making a speech can spread awareness, but having conversations with your friends is just as important. As more people become more aware, they will continue to spread their awareness further and further. It is a chain reaction that only needs one voice to get started.

Additionally, the most effective ways for schools to conquer the stigma surrounding depression include the following:

  • Encourage thoughtful conversations about mental health
  • Introduce mindfulness
  • Involve community experts
  • Involve parents or trusted adults
  • ALWAYS SHOW AND SPREAD EMPATHY

Visit: https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/med-u/high-schoolers-can-shift-peers-attitudes-about-depression-study-shows if you have further interest in the best ways to reduce stigma and the positive impact that reducing the stigma has.

Important Info Regarding Suicide:

Recognizing Depression and Suicidal Thoughts:

If you know someone with depression that may be having thoughts of suicide CALL THE SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

Sources:

“Adolescent Depression in Schools.” Newport Academy, 14 Feb. 2018, www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/adolescent-depression-in-schools/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.

Dryden-Edwards, Roxanne. “Teen Depression.” MedicineNet, 15 Apr. 2014, www.medicinenet.com/teen_depression/article.htm. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.

Gavin, Kara. “High Schoolers Can Shift Peers’ Attitudes About Depression, Study Shows.” Michigan Health Lab, Michigan Medicine, 5 Mar. 2018, labblog.uofmhealth.org/med-u/high-schoolers-can-shift-peers-attitudes-about-depression-study-shows. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.

Lawson, Brooke. “5 ways schools can reduce the stigma of mental illness.” District Administration, 20 Sept. 2018, districtadministration.com/5-ways-schools-can-reduce-the-stigma-of-mental-illness/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.

Morin, Amy. “Depression Statistics Everyone Should Know.” Very Well Mind, 21 Mar. 2019, www.verywellmind.com/depression-statistics-everyone-should-know-4159056. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.

“What are the warning signs?.” Beyond Blue, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/suicide-prevention/worried-about-suicide/what-are-the-warning-signs. Accessed 5 Apr. 2019.

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COMMENTS: 14
  1. April 25, 2019 by Addie Anderson

    Jane, this is such a cool project! I did not know that 20% of high schoolers suffer from depression – and that doesn’t even account for the other mental health disorders there are. I totally agree that getting the facts out there can help to lower stigma, and I think some good ways this can be done is by putting infographics around schools or having an assembly about mental health awareness.

    • April 25, 2019 by Jane Miller

      Addie, thank you for your comment! That is a great point to make that the 20% of students who suffer from depression doesn’t even account for the other mental health disorders. However, I definitely think that the theme of stigma is common for a wide range of mental disorders, including depression, and for each of these disorders, awareness and empathy can help to decrease the stigma.

  2. April 26, 2019 by Lizzie Nash

    Jane! I love how you included the infographics that you created earlier this semester! I think your presentation is extremely pretty to look at, and it is organized super well! I think you did an amazing job on this and you can tell you put in a lot of hard work! I was wondering if at your school, do they have any health type class where you would learn about depression? Or more so why do you think some of the students at your school came up with the answers they did?

    • April 26, 2019 by Jane

      Hey Lizzie! Thank you so much for your feedback!!! At my school, we do take health class in 8th grade, but they don’t discuss depression with us very much. They touch on it for maybe 10 minutes, but besides that, it almost seems as if they try to avoid it. I definitely think that contributes to the reason why some people gave the answers that they did. Because we have never really been taught much about depression in health class, there are many people who are not aware of the actual statistics concerning depression.

  3. April 26, 2019 by Michaela Kim

    Hi Jane! This is such a cool topic and project! I especially loved your introductory video and infographics – they really caught my attention. As I read through your project, I couldn’t help but wonder what adults and parents can do to decrease stigma. You talked a lot about what we as students can do to help each other out (which was so awesome!!) but I wondered if there is a difference for teachers, staff, parents, coaches, and more! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • April 26, 2019 by Jane

      Hey Michaela! Thank you so much for your comment and feedback! I definitely understand why you would wonder about what parents could do to help to decrease the stigma! I think the main thing that parents and teachers can do to help is to educate both themselves and their children. Children rely on their parents so much to teach them about the topics that they do not learn much about in school, so if parents were able to educate their children, I think that would have a very positive impact.

  4. April 26, 2019 by Tia Jeffs

    This is a very interesting and a very important topic! I love what you are doing in your school to help with the stigma surrounding depression, I think it’s amazing! In addition, I love the images you included, all very interesting. Great job!

    • April 27, 2019 by Jane

      Thank you so much!!

  5. April 28, 2019 by Jenny.Zhao

    Hello! At my school, there have been many speakers who came and talked about depression and the need to raise awareness. At this point, our whole school is already aware of the rates of depression, yet the stigma persists. I really liked your emphasis to create conversation. That’s different than what speakers have been telling us, and it was really interesting. Typically, people give us statistics and say we need to notice people who have depression, but reducing this stigma is truly important. This was really insightful. Thanks and really good job!

    • April 28, 2019 by Jane

      Hey Jenny! Thank you so much for your comment! I definitely think that you raise a good point that just giving people the statistics doesn’t help to end the stigma, but instead through creating conversation. I do think it is important for people to know the statistics, but like you said, it is definitely more important to get people talking and contributing positively in their community.

  6. April 28, 2019 by Amalie Getz

    This was such a cool presentation! The issue of mental health in high school students is so important, and as a student it is something that I witness every day. I really liked your emphasis on the statistic that 20% of high school students suffer from depression. I also like that you incorporated a video of you speaking- it really brought your project to life! What do you think that are some specific ways that schools should be helping to combat against teen depression?

  7. April 29, 2019 by Caroline.Cummins

    Hi Jane! Our projects were very similar in topic. I really loved the way you showed your stats through infographics and visuals because sometimes this information can be very heavy and I think that it can maybe make it not only a bit easier on the eye but also to just gather the importance of it all. I really love this topic and think it is SO important to get out there. Great great work here.

  8. April 30, 2019 by Ava.Glazier

    Hey Jane! This is a really cool project. I love how you begin the page with a video and instead of just recording what estimates people had you actually put a video of them speaking. It made the entire thing feel really personalized and made me want to read more – nice job!

  9. May 02, 2019 by Mary.Rogers

    Hey Jane!

    I loved looking at your Catalyst Conference Project as our topics were somewhat similar. I focused mine on how mental illness affects teens in high school and yours was more about the stigma surrounding mental health in high school which was another topic I was very interested in so I was very happy to see someone did that topic for their project. I found a lot of your statistics super interesting, especially the one how 1 in 5 teens will experience depressive symptoms before adulthood. I also really enjoyed your infographics as it made your presentation fun to look at. Great job!

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