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Teen depression, then and now

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webmaster | 02/18/12

The author of a book on teen-age mental health reports that teen-agers of today suffer far more from anxiety and depression than have teenagers in the past.

I don’t doubt he is right. When I was a teen-ager (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) teen-agers sometimes became depressed, but it wasn’t a national epidemic. In fact, being a teen-ager was mostly fun.

Of course, if your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you, you felt pretty bad, but you got over it quickly. Teens today are almost overwhelmed with depression and hostility by an incident like that, says Dr. Gregory Jantz, who wrote “When Your Teenager Becomes ... the Stranger in Your House.”

Of course, things are different for teens than they were when I was one. Here are some of the differences:

  • There were no dirty movies in the neighborhood theaters.
  • Television shows were about cowboys and police detectives or they were comedies or news shows — with no profanity and little sex.
  • Popular musicians didn’t sing dirty songs and grab their crotches.
  • There were no cell phones or iPods. Teens had little excuse not to talk to one another.
  • Teachers generally didn’t have to take guff from students. If necessary, the teacher could haul a miscreant to the principal’s office, where appropriate punishment would be meted out right then.
  • When kids got home from school, at least one parent or an older sibling was present.
  • Parents gave their kids breakfast before the kids left for school. The idea of schools providing breakfast would have been thought ludicrous.
  • There were no soda-filled vending machines on campus.
  • I never knew one of my fellow teens to use drugs of any kind. Some of them drank beer, but if their parents found out, the kids got holy heck. A parent would never teach a kid how to drink, as some parents brag about doing now.
  • There was little teen-age pregnancy, because there was little birth control available, and most kids weren’t eager to get caught with pants down.
  • Kids graduated from high school. There were dropouts;, but at rates nothing like we have today. Maybe 10 percent would drop out. Today, it’s more like 25 percent.
  • Kids who couldn’t speak English had to stay after school in classes to study it. They learned quickly because they didn’t like staying late.

Of course, not all teenagers of today are affected by severe depression and anxiety, but I feel sorry for the ones that cultural changes have left by the mental health wayside.


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