More resources for and acceptance of mental health issues among young people is needed, the Child Welfare League Foundation said on Wednesday, after its survey found that 23 percent of high-school students have experienced severe depression.
The survey, based on the 21-question version of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale, received 1,842 responses from junior-high and high-school students aged 12 to 17.
The scale asks about people’s feelings over the previous week, but the resulting score does not constitute a clinical diagnosis, foundation chief executive officer Pai Li-fang (白麗芳) told a news conference.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
About 12.2 percent of respondents reported feeling severe or extremely severe levels of stress, manifesting as trouble calming down, irritability and restlessness, the survey showed.
About 17 percent reported severe or extremely severe levels of persistent sadness or depression, while among only high-school students, the figure was 23 percent.
Yet when dealing with challenging emotions, 17 percent said they would not talk with anyone, the survey showed.
Seventy percent said they would talk with friends, while 40.6 percent said they would talk with their parents and 9.8 percent would talk with online friends, it showed.
Only 5.6 percent said they would seek professional counseling from their school, it showed.
Suicide is the second-most common cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds, Pai said, citing 2021 data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Cross-referencing of the data showed that the more socially competent a teenager feels, the less likely they are to experience stress and depression, Pai said.
Therefore, cultivating communication skills, cooperation, a personal voice, responsibility, participation, empathy and self-control in young people is important, Pai said.
This should involve more positive encouragement and broader access to resources to live a fuller teenage life, she said.
Illustrator Mr Doumiao (豆苗先生) created a comic about his experience with depression, informed by similar stories others have shared with him.
Teenagers are not taught that depression is normal, making it easy to label and stigmatize people experiencing those feelings, he said.
Many therefore turn to the Internet to express their emotions, he added.
Over many generations, adults have taught children that showing their emotions is a sign of weakness, that fear is cowardly and depression is the result of a low stress tolerance, counseling psychologist Teng Shan-ting (鄧善庭) said.
However, even adults face difficulties in their lives, and crying is not only acceptable, but can make it easier to meet challenges head on, she said.
Adults should show children that experiencing negative emotions is normal, and can be expressed and accepted, she added.
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