Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Changing Remains Same

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Changing Remains Same

Article excerpt

Christopher Davey

ADOLESCENCE can be tough. On television show Four Corners recently we heard some wonderfully candid reports from young people about the stresses and difficulties they face in contemporary Australia. Many of the pressures were age-old: doing well in school, finding a partner, fitting in. Others were newer: the competition for the most social media followers, the pressure to look "Tumblr-ey".

Are kids today more depressed and anxious than those of a generation or two ago? In truth, as best as we can tell, probably not but mental illness remains an enormous burden for young people. Depression and anxiety are the biggest causes of disability for adolescents and young adults in Australia by a wide margin.

And while rates of depression and anxiety are probably not getting worse, few would argue that the rates are getting any better.

Adolescence is marked by rapid changes. If we think for a moment what the period encompasses, if we strip it back from the more recent concept of being a "teenager", then at heart it is about the transition from dependence to independence.

Adolescence is heralded by the obvious external changes that come with sexual maturity but also less obvious internal ones.

These include a slowly emerging sense of identity, the ability to cope with strong emotions and the capacity to navigate a much more complex social milieu.

Most of us emerge from adolescence intact, becoming the people we are today. But it's also a period of vulnerability. It is the period when most of the significant mental illnesses emerge - and no wonder.

Some studies do suggest that young people today are more depressed. Older people, born in more distant epochs, report having had less depression and anxiety in their youth than people born more recently. As people get older, though, they tend to have poorer recollection of adolescent periods of depression.

More reliable studies, which collect data on depression as it occurs, or shortly after, aren't so worrying.

They suggest that there hasn't been an increase in the rate of depression over recent decades, at least since the 1970s, when reliable data started being collected. …

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