Depression among adolescents, the silent killer


There have been so many cases of teen suicides due to depression because of among others, family factors, peer pressure and stress from exams. The fact is mental health depression among youths is no joke. Many are suffering and in silence.

According to the World Health Organisation in September last year, mental health conditions account for 16 per cent of global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10 to 19 years.

Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents with suicide the third leading cause of deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds.

A 2017 government public health survey revealed that two in five Malaysian adolescents aged 13 to 17 experience anxiety while one in five suffers from depression.

The National Health and Morbidity surveys show that the number of adults who are at risk of developing some form of mental illness rose from 10.7 per cent in 1996 to 29.2 per cent in 2015.

In May, a Malaysian girl took her own life after she posted an Instagram poll asking if she should live or die, with a majority (69 per cent) of respondents saying yes.

There is even an app being developed by Universiti Malaya Faculty of Medicine to gauge youths’ mental health which could help users to identify if they are going through anxiety, stress or depression.

Even telecommunication companies have taken steps to waive call charges to Befrienders (a non-profit organisation providing emotional support) hotline starting Aug 1 for those who need advice, counselling and emotional support.

Yes, mental health among adolescents has reached a worrying state and I believe that it can be tough being a teenager these days. It is easy for adults to say that they are too pampered, less resilient and have a sense of entitlement. But today’s teenagers live in a different world from the ones we grew up in.

For one, their actions are forever documented with social media. And with a never-ending stream of information at their fingertips, it also comes with unhealthy expectations. They face many challenges including finding the right environment and people, expressing emotions and confronting bullies not just physically but also in the cyber world.

Far too many of them are suffering, and often in silence. With all the awareness and steps taken, including from telecommunication companies, I do wonder if most of these youths would take that first step to open up and to make that call to a stranger.

Penang Institute’s Lim Su Lin, a policy analyst who studies the Malaysian mental healthcare system, said: “Credit needs to be given where it is due. I think it is a great combined effort by the telecommunication companies to make free counselling and emotional support available 24/7 to those in need.

“But I also think it is important to reflect on why an individual who is struggling emotionally would pick up the phone to confide in a stranger in the first place.

“Most of the time, it is because that person doesn’t feel that they can reach out to personal networks – the people around them – for support. That sort of isolation reflects a stigma towards mental health in our community that we try to challenge, even as we welcome the expansion of platforms of help like the Befrienders hotline.

“At the end of the day, suicide prevention should be treated as a collective effort of the community.”

So, take a little time out to ask people around you “Is everything okay?” and lend your ears. It could help that one person who could be having suicidal thoughts to just hold on. As American rock band REM’s song titled ‘Everybody Hurts’ lyric’s go:

When your day is long, and the night,

And the night, the night is yours alone,

When you’re sure you’ve had enough, of this life, well hang on,

Don’t let yourself go, ‘cause everybody cries, and everybody hurts, sometimes.


This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.