The Dark Four Years: Depression in High School

We all have had that moment of excitement and joy of becoming a high school student. Especially the first day before you step foot on campus, you feel that rush of finally being able to live that “high school experience”, similarly to the ones that we see in High School Musical or Clueless. What we fail to recognize is that someone at the school, maybe our friend, classmate, a mutual friend, someone we passed by the halls with, or even yourself is depressed or showing some symptoms of depression. Scary, right? 

First, let’s play a game. Look at the picture below, which one out of the five has depression? Take a minute to really think about it. 

So, what do you think? Did you choose the person the far right? How about the person in the middle? 

Well, the answer is, they all do. And that is one of the trickiest things about depression, you never know who has it. 

What is depression?

Depression is a disorder that affects an individual mind; causing sadness, loneliness, and loss of interest. It controls how you feel, think, and behave on a daily basis, which can affect your emotional and physical health. Individuals with depression are unable to function daily and think that life is not worth living.

There are just not one, but multiple types of depression. In fact, there are:

  • Major Depression
  • Chronic Depression
  • Atypical Depression
  • Typically experienced at an early age, during teenage years  
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD)
  • Mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes in a woman after giving birth
  • Bipolar Depression (Manic Depression)
  • Seasonal Depression (SAD)
  • Psychotic Depression

Now that you know the brief description of what depression is, let’s go in depth and look into the brain to see what is happening when someone is experiencing depression. 

The amygdala is in the limbic system where it processes fear, anger, sadness, and controls aggression. It also stores memories and enables to recall experiences or feelings that an individual has experienced in the past to apply in the future. For example, if you were scratched by a cat when you were a little child and see a cat walking towards you, your alertness and/or fear will increase because the amygdala processed that event. When an individual is depressed, the activity in the amygdala is higher because it is activated when recalling emotional memories. 

Thalamus is a structure in the limbic system and connects the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for speech, behavior, movement, thinking, and learning.

Hippocampus is part of the limbic system and it processes long-term memory and recollection. It is in fact, smaller when depressed because ongoing exposure to stress hormones damages the growth of nerve cells.

Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are affected during depression. These three primary neurotransmitters operate within the parts of the brain which controls emotions, stress, appetite, sleep, and sexuality.

How many teenagers are affected by it?

In a recent study published in the journal, Pediatrics, there has been a major increase in depression in teenagers in the past decade. Between 2005 to 2014, teens who reported to have a major depressive episode increased from 8.7 percent to 11.3 percent, which is a 37 percent increase (AAP News & Journals).  In this research, Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, a professor of mental health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, who led the study, stated that the largest increases in depression occurred after 2011. 

Do you have the symptoms?

Click here to take the Depression Screening test. It will only take you a couple of minutes. 

Who can help? 
Sometimes, it is hard to ask for help, even if it is your family or friends. But when you need someone to just listen and understand what you are going through, there is always someone to help you with just a click or phone call away.

Take into action

Recently, my school started suicide prevention and depression awareness day earlier this year. It was a day of understanding suicide and depression, from a Crisis Text Line representative, Libby Craig (in the picture on the left). She taught us the importance of speaking up and getting help, as well as the rise of suicides in the Bay Area, which is an issue that affects me personally. She inspired me to speak to all of you about depression suicide and teach me the seriousness of young teens affected by this epidemic and mental illness. 

One of the things you can do in your community is to bring up the topic of depression at your school since it is an issue that most schools do not really touch on. At my school, suicide and depression were a topic that was set aside until this year, which is unfortunate since this is a serious issue. Speak to your school counselor, activities chair members, dean, teachers, any adult who can help you bring the topic to the community. It is something worth bringing up because you might aid someone who is struggling with depression or suicide. Be a helping hand and speak up!

Let’s Talk (LIVE)

Do you have any questions or comments that you would like to ask/share? Come join the live chatroom here with all of your insights. The chatroom will take place in the channel “#livechat“. The room will open from April 28, 4:30p.m. to 6 p.m. PST until the end of the Catalyst Conference. I hope you see you all there!


Share this project
  1. April 28, 2017 by Gabrielle Ruban

    Hey Youka! I love the idea of incorporating a screening and a chat room! I haven’t seen that before in the GOA Catalyst Conferences – very creative! Depression is such a common mental health issue, especially amongst growing, developing, hormonally-unstable teenagers. It’s crazy to see that the rates of depressive episodes are increasing over the years – I wonder why? Some people like to blame this on the fact that we talk about mental health more now, saying that by bringing so much attention to it, we make kids “believe” they have issues that don’t exist. However, I think the increase has to do with people now feeling more comfortable to get screened or get help from professionals, as we are more open now about talking about such aspects of life.

  2. April 28, 2017 by Emily

    Really good!!

  3. May 01, 2017 by Ana Bogdanovich

    Your site is so engaging and well-formatted, and also full of really well-researched insights! I LOVE your chatroom idea, that’s so creative and I think it’s a really good way to spark conversation! Nice work!

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