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The Causation Behind Global Teenage Depression and Suicide

The Causation behind Global Teenage Depression and Suicide:


A Look at Mental Health
Alexander W. Damm
Tallwood Global Studies and World Languages Academy

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Table of Contents
Abstract: Page 3
Introduction: Page 4-5
Limitations: 5
Methodology: Page 6
Literature Review: 7-10
Body: 11-16
Conclusion: 17
Bibliography: 18-20

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Abstract
Depression has become an epidemic that is ravaging the youth of todays world. The
number of teenagers who have been diagnosed with clinical depression disorder has risen to the
double digits, showing an alarming trend that is resulting in increased suicide rates among
teenagers. Many factors are connected to this issue, the predominant ones being, stress, family
issues, and bullying; however, these issues do change based upon the culture one is in. Studies
have shown that an increase in depression rates directly correlates with an increase in suicide
rates. This is why there must be an investment into educating teenagers about depression in order
to eliminate the stigma associated with it, so that the future of society may be one without a
socialized depression, but of understanding towards those afflicted with depression.

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Introduction
Suicide and depression have become intertwined within todays teenagers as they are
succumbing to the increased levels of stress, cultural affiliations, and the mentality that taking a
pill will cure them of their issues, this has resulted in our society growing complacent to the
reality that some teenagers will commit suicide. Our society is one that seems to ignore
depression and does not wish to talk about it, which directly results in a lack of understanding
and care toward depressed individuals. This mentality results in teenagers killing themselves
because they feel lost and as if they have nowhere to go, an endemic attitude that has done
naught but increase.

Society seems to understand why people undergo depression; however the causation for
that depression seems to remain a mystery to a great many. If our society, let alone the world,
does not begin to understand the underlying causes of suicide and depression the amount of
teenagers who resort to suicide will only increase within the coming years.

This does not mean that this study is pointless or a copy, for in fact it is one that is hardly
as replicated as many others and is in much greater need than many others. Teenage suicide and
depression are large topics that branch out wildly. Some would say that depression is related to
cultural ideologies such as dishonor while others state that our growing dependence on medicine
to fix all our problems has caused teenagers to give up easily if the medicine does not solve their
problems. Which has resulted in some stating that depression and suicide are linked to the
growing amount of work and stress that is befalling teenagers across the world. Although

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medicine and treatment heavily affect how depression is dealt with, it is culture that guides those
treatments, it is culture that creates the mentality that can lead to depression and suicide.
Limitations
The main focus of this study is to see whether or not there is a correlation in different
cultures as to what causes depression and suicide in teenagers. This implies a focus on how
cultural traditions affect daily life, what is considered tolerable and intolerable, socially, within
cultures, and how open a society is about mental health. These factors are considered to be the
most important characteristics of depression and suicide in societies across the globe; however
there are also factors that cannot be studied, because of the difficulty of research, lack of
originality, and the lack of resources.
Comparing how increased stress has effected depression and suicide rates among
teenagers is a prevalent idea; however, the issue with this field is the fact that this topic does not
cover a global field and lacks solid recent research that many fields have. There is also the field
of how medicine affects teenage depression and suicide. There is a multitude of research about
the effects of certain medicines; however, the research is so deep and is in such wide availability
that the subject is overwhelming and fractures off into many sub groups. Another issue is the fact
the bias that may be present due to personal experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts,
this could lead to a misrepresentation of the information as being more drastic than it actually is.
The original research will also be restricted by time and resources, which there is a lack there of.

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Methodology
The research conducted was employed by using a random sampling method chosen from
students at Tallwood high school. This was undertaken by grouping together a list of all of the
teachers at Tallwood high school with a number, that number then was plugged into a random
number generator until ten teachers names were chosen. From these ten teachers, 28 students
were chosen to answer a series of ten questions.
Within the study a college professor and student were interviewed to learn more about
how different cultures can affect depression and suicide within teenagers. The interview was
about how certain aspects of a culture, religion and social norms, heavily impact how teenagers
with depression are taken care of, if at all, also how one copes with depression in a society that
lacks understanding. Teenagers are going through the most impactful growth period of their lives
and mental disorders, such as depression, can heavily influence the young developing mind. A
lack of care and understanding can drive many young teenagers to suicide. This depicts how
cultures heavily impacts how depression develops throughout the life of a teenager.
The majority of the research data was gained from research journals, articles, and
dissertations regarding depression and its rise with teenagers in the last few years. A reoccurring
theme with the data was that social norms heavily affect a teenagers perspective of themselves,
religion plays a major role in how depression is treated, and that the available and acceptable
treatments within a society also affect how depressed and suicidal teenagers develop their
symptoms and their treatments.

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Literature Review
Bullying
Bullying has a direct impact on the mentality of adolescents and how they interact with
their surroundings. A study of 15,425 high school students in the United States conducted by
researchers from the University of Arkansas showed that girls are more likely than boys to be
bullied (31.3% vs. 22.9%) (Obesity, Fitness, and Wellness Week, 2014). This was particularly
prevalent in cyberbullying as 22.0% of girls are cyberbullied compared to 10.8% of boys;
however, boy reported more at school bullying than girls (12.2% vs. 9.2%) (Obesity, Fitness, and
Wellness Week, 2014). From this information a trend of bullying leads to depression and
correlates bleakly with suicide rates as well.
Compared to those not bullied and who had attempted suicide (4.6%), those who have
been bullied, at school only, are at a much greater risk for attempting suicide with 9.5% of them
attempting suicide or to self-harm. While of those who were only cyber bullied 14.7% reported
having attempted suicide or self-harm and 21.1% of those receiving both types of bullying
reported attempting suicide or self-harm (Obesity, Fitness, and Wellness Week, 2014). This
shows a direct correlation between suicide attempt rates and how much and what type of
bullying adolescents are subjected to.
As the correlation between depression and suicide is becoming ever more connected to
the rising rates of bullying the larger issue becomes clear. Depression and suicide, in the United
States, is heavily impacted by bullying which encompasses a plethora of sub categories be it

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bullying due to sexual orientation, ones appearance, or gender identification. These sub topics
make up the larger scheme of cultural norms as what is considered acceptable in the U.S. may
not be acceptable in areas such as the Middle-East or East-Asia. This could show that perhaps
Americans focus more on bullying those who are homosexual, resulting in homosexuals being
more depression and suicidal than heterosexuals. While perhaps in East-Asia they may focus
more on ones appearance, resulting in more obese or undeveloped adolescents to be subjected to
higher amounts of bullying which increases depression and suicide rates among said group. The
basis for bullying may change across the globe and between different cultures, but it ends in the
same result of causing teenagers to be depressed and perhaps suicidal.
Causes
By age 18 about 11% of adolescents will have formed a depressive disorder (Jennifer
Woodworth, 2014). Depression does not need to only be a chronic illness, but can also be
defined as a reaction to a short term traumatic experience or stressor (Jennifer Woodworth,
2014). Some of the risk factors for adolescents who may develop depression are, health issues,
poor grades, violence at home, being bullied, puberty, moving to a different area, and divorce (s).
While some of the factors that can help limit or prevent depression among adolescents are family
involvement, clinical care, financial stability, community support, and participating in sports or
extracurricular activities (Jennifer Woodworth, 2014). As these factors either negatively or
positively impact a teenager, the chances of an adolescent experiencing depression depends
heavily on family situations, school relations (e.g. bullying), and mental development.

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Symptoms of depression include changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, a lack of


energy, feelings of worthlessness, persistent agitation, frequently missing school, reckless
behavior, loss of concentration, and self-harm (Jennifer Woodworth, 2014). It is worth noting
that not all of those afflicted with depression while display the same or all symptoms. The
symptoms of depression are also dependent upon the aforementioned experiences for those who
undergo different situations will also display different symptoms. There is a correlation between
those who suffer depression and their familial situation. It can be said that how one is raised at
home or what one experiences at home can significantly affect the mental state of an adolescent.
A teenager who is raised under the more stringent regiment of parenting that is present in Asia
may differ from a teenager who is raised in the U.S. or Europe whom underwent a more relaxed
style of parenting. It is likely that an Asian adolescent may experience depression due to poor
grades as their parents may give said teenager a difficult time, yelling or grounding, while an
American child may experience depression due to drug abuse and having their parents find out
about the substance abuse. The way different cultures have parent to child interactions can
immensely affect how adolescents develop and whether or not they suffer from depression.
Sexual Orientation
A study of 136 heterosexual and 137 homosexual Australian men found that connection
to ones community is directly linked with major depressive disorder (McLaren, Jude,
McLachlan, 2007). Earlier research has shown that gay and bisexual men are 3.0 times more
likely to suffer from depression compared to heterosexual men, this is also troubling news
concerning that depression is directly linked to suicidal thoughts and tendencies (McLaren, Jude,

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McLachlan, 2007). Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III shows
that 19% of gay men have attempted suicide compared to the 3.6% of straight men and the .5%
of abstinent men (McLaren, Jude, McLachlan, 2007).
It has been shown that homosexuals are generally shamed within communities and from
this feel a disconnect between them, the homosexuals, and the community (McLaren, Jude,
McLachlan, 2007). This results in feelings of isolation that can transfer into depression due to
loneliness. Gay men who have a partner are less likely to feel isolated from their community
than gay men who are without a partner. In turn, the direct result of this is that isolated
homosexuals are at a much higher risk of suicidal actions due to their disconnect from their
community. Single men who are heterosexual are not as affected by being without a partner and
do not feel as lonely or isolated from their community as homosexual men (McLaren, Jude,
McLachlan, 2007).
Those who have a different sexual orientation than what is consider the social norm are at
a higher risk of depression and of having suicidal tendencies than those who are heterosexual.
Homophobia in a community can differ between global cultures, for instance homophobia in
Europe and the United States is much lower than compared to homophobia in the religious states
of the Middle-East. The way these different cultures interact with homosexuals is immensely
different as homosexuals in the Middle-East may be killed for their sexual orientation, while
those in Europe are much more accept and may experience more social isolation or bullying.
This can result in a higher level of depression for those in the Middle-East compared to
Europeans as they, Middle-Easterners, may fear for their lives if they are discovered to be

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homosexuals. The differing levels of acceptability between cultures can have a drastic impact on
the mental stability and development of a homosexual adolescent.

Body
The history of depression dates back to the second millennium B.C., where
Mesopotamian historical texts referenced a condition known as Melancholia. Healers and
philosophers of the time believed that the state of melancholia was a spiritual one rather than a
mental one; believing that demons and evil spirits were possessing the mind and body. These
conditions were treated by priests through exorcisms and prayers (Nemade, Reiss, Dombeck,
2007).
In the 5th century B.C., the Greek and Romans were shedding new light on the subject of
melancholia; however the Greeks and Romans were divided. The Greeks either believed the idea
of possessions or in the new theory, brought about by Hippocrates, of the imbalance of body
fluids otherwise known humours (Nemade, Reiss, Dombeck, 2007). These humours were
divided into four categories; yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood. It was believed that the
draining of the black bile would cure one of melancholia, therefore many used techniques such
as blood-letting, bathing, exercise, and dieting to treat the illness. Romans, however,
predominantly believed that melancholia was a psychological issue rather than biological, but the
treatment ideas did not differ much from those of the Greeks (Nemade, Reiss, Dombeck, 2007).

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Once the Roman Empire fell the teachings of the ancients seemingly disappeared. Many
believed that those with melancholia were possessed by demons and that the only way to save
their souls was through exorcisms, beatings, and starvation (Nemade, Reiss, Dombeck, 2007).
This thought process differed wildly from that of the Middle Eastern kingdoms, who still
believed in the ways of the Romans and the old therapies used by them. The split of thought has
been related to the divide of knowledge whereas the Middle East retained the books and
scriptures of the ancient world, the Europeans, hardly if at all.
As the Renaissance came to pass the ideas of depression started to develop more over to
the side of a psychological disorder (Nemade, Reiss, Dombeck, 2007), keep in mind psychology
will not become a definite science until William James defines the word psychology as the
science of mental life and was even then a challenged science (Watson, 1913). As time passed
after the Renaissance not much changed in thought until Sigmund Freud came and radicalized
how depression was perceived. Freud believed that melancholia and mourning were connected
by a withdrawal of cathexis, meaning the subject felt that they felt nothing and were not invested
in the world. Cathexis was connected to neurons having a certain amount of energy given to
them and a withdrawal of cathexis implies a lack of energy for the neurons (Harris, Mayberg,
Malizia, Nutt, 2008).
From Freuds perception of depression and how states of cathexis would determine
whether or not one was depressed brought into light the idea of modern depression. It is now
well believed that depression is caused by an imbalance in ones neurotransmitters, which has
resulted in a variety of medications being created to help combat this condition, or one can
experience a traumatic experience(s) in ones life (NAMI, 2015). These breakthroughs in thought

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have helped to propel the treatment of depression into the 21st century, changing how societies
across the globe view and help those who suffer from this mental illness.
Throughout the world it is estimated that 11% of teenagers will develop a depressive
disorder (Woodworth, 2014). Unsurprisingly most of the depressed teenagers of the world live in
the Middle East and Africa, areas with high poverty and low education levels that have been
stricken with war and sectarian division for many years, with as much as 7% of the population
being depressed (Ferrari, Charlson, Norman, Whiteford, 2013). These numbers are
continuing to climb as recent even such as the formation of ISIS have driven many teenagers into
depressive states. In the United States of America and Europe most countries have lower rates of
depression geared at around 4-5%, this is due to there being less stressors in Western nations than
in Eastern ones (Ferrari, Charlson, Norman, Whiteford, 2013).
Compared to Western nations, Eastern and African nations have much higher rates of
depression. This stems from the local state of economies, the lack of treatment or care available,
the stigma associate with depression, and stressful political or cultural events such as war that are
ongoing in the area. For these reasons the way depression is handled in the East is much more
different than that of the West. The mainly religious states of the Middle East do not provide
much health care for those with depression. Reasons for depression may be due to sexual
orientation as well, for homosexuals within the Middle East are at risk of dying if caught
(McLaren, Jude, McLachlan, 2007). This can lead to major depression based upon a feeling of
inferiority.

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Other causes for depression in Africa and the Middle East can be connected to the
abysmal state of African economies. Many states have trouble providing even the most basic
needs and opportunities for its citizens, causing many teenagers to feel hopeless and as if they
will have no future. From this stage of thought many make the transition from depression into
suicide, believing if they have no future why waste their time (Woodworth, 2014).
There is also the issue of pre-marital sex or pregnancy, an idea more widely accepted in
Western countries, which can lead to scorn, familial disownment, and even honor killings. Many
teenagers who get themselves into the situation of being pregnant are view as girls who sell their
bodies, a view bathed in fallacy. Many of these girls end up being killed by their family
members in order to preserve the familial honor. This thought process ends up making those
girls who are pregnant immensely depressed. These girls are perhaps some of the most fringed
groups of Eastern society (Marie, Fergusson, Boden, 2011).
In the West these ideas are all more openly accepted and the states of the economies are
not in turmoil as in the East; however the West has different causes for depression. Western
depression is effected by the aforementioned issues that are the main contributors to the East, but
the West focuses more on issues such as bullying, stress, and family situations.
For Western nations, bullying is a major cause of depression. Bullying effects girls more
than boys (31.3% vs. 22.9%), with most of the bullying being online roughly 14.7- 21.1% of
those bullied online reported harming themselves (Obesity, Fitness, and Wellness Week, 2014).
The 14.7% was for those who were only cyber bullied and the 21.1% was for those who were

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cyber bullied and bullied at school. Bullying is usually associated around ones appearance,
sexual orientation, or social ability (Obesity, Fitness, and Wellness Week, 2014).
Schools are also a massive contributor to depression through stress, with 64.29% of
Virginia Beach high schoolers believing that stress related to school is the number one cause of
depression (Damm, 2015). Stress has increased in massive amounts over the past 50 years due to
tougher school requirements and the expectations held by ones family to do well in school
(Noguchi, 2014). Those who receive poor grades are at a much greater risk at being depressed
than those with higher grades. This is due to the disappointment received from family members
and the over-arching shame of appearing dumb. Coupling these two has led many to commit
suicide, believing that their grades are poor leads the depressed teenager to see no possible future
for they believe they cannot get into college (Noguchi, 2014).
This trails into familial situations which contain instances such as: parents getting
divorced, selling the house and moving, death of a loved one, substance abusing parent(s), or
being adopted. These different instances have different rates of depression, but the most
traumatic experiences such as a death or parents who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, usually
produce the greater effect of higher rates of depression (Woodworth, 2014).
The greatest difference, however, between Eastern and Western nations would be the
access to health care and the general acceptance of depression in said societies. When asked
about depression, one teenager replied; I dont feel ashamed just kind of alone. I dont know
many people with depression, but a lot of my friends have tried to help me and I greatly
appreciate it. (Bryant, 2015). This shows that Western nations have a generally more open

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policy with health care and are on the forefront of medications and therapies that can help alieve
or eradicate mental disorders (Shah, 2011). On the other side Eastern nations tend to lag behind
in their health care programs, if they even have health care programs available, and are not
openly accepting of mental disorders (Shah, 2011).
Reasons for the lack of available health care is the relative poverty of many African and
Eastern states; however, oil producing countries in the Middle East are wealthy and do have
health services available (Shah, 2011). The issue of poverty was a cause of depression for many
teenagers in Africa and is also obstructing their access to quality health care, if any at all. Nongovernmental Organizations, such as Doctors without Borders, have tried to provide health care
for people of the countries, but this can only go so far and does not encompass mental care rather
focuses more on vaccinations and the eradication of deadly diseases.
As the causation for depression may be known, the way to tackle it is a much grander
question. The truth is poverty stricken nations have next to no ways to help those with mental
disorders, and the issue is not one on the main agenda of those nations, understandably
Compared to feeding ones people, providing basic health services, creating schools, and
building other types of infrastructure, mental illness does not seem to be an issue of urgency.
There simply are too many issues for these nations at once meaning that the future of mental
health in these developing poor nations seems bleak at best.
With the outlook for these nations being so poor, the teenagers afflicted with depression
have very few options. This sadly leads to many of them committing suicide due to a lack of
hope. The World Health Organization has pushed through many charters and treaties; however,

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mental health has not been on the list of issues that have passed (WHO, 2013). Primary care has
been adopted by many nations, but that can only go so far. In order to see lasting change in
depression rates special arrangements for therapists and anti-depressant drugs, must be made.
Else those afflicted with depression will continue to suffer due to their disposition.

Conclusion
The reasons behind why teenagers are becoming depressed is a complicated one,
embroiled in all systems of life from school to work to religion. Contrary to what some believe,
depressed persons are not necessarily people who are always sad and are crying. Depression is
the state of a lack of motivation, lack of emotion, and a lack of place in the world. These
symptoms seemed to be glossed over by a large majority of people in the world, teenagers in
particular.
In order for the growing rates of depression to slow down society must become more
accepting and aware of the true face of depression. The days of stigmatizing depressed persons
as being Debbie-downers or weak minded are far gone, come has the time of action of
education. For this epidemic of sadness to be quelled society as a whole must come together to
educated and provide a more nurturing and loving environment for those afflicted with
depressed, so that our world may stop seeing the slow decay of the mental state of teenagers.

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Teenagers are the future of society, allowing them to rot and perish is akin to signing ones
death wish. If this generation cannot be saved then a shift in the demographics of those afflicted
with depression will become apparent. Time will tell how the worlds current lack of action will
bring the forlorn to their knees. Ultimately dooming the world to a population suffering from an
illness that could have been slowed if not stopped, years ago. If suitable action is taken, then the
senseless rotting away of this generation can be prevented, and the future spared. Securing a
brighter world not only for this generation, but all foreseeable ones.

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