Why is Depression So Common in Schools?

Depression lies. It tells you you’ve always felt this way, and you always will. But you haven’t and you won’t. ~ Halley Cornell

A girl with her head against the chalkboard

Why are we seeing depression among children and adolescents at such a prevalent rate? Why is depression in school so common? There are several reasons, which are discussed below. As you review these items, keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Stigma. Research has shown that people are reluctant to seek help for depression, especially from mental health professionals. This may be because of stigma attached to seeing a therapist. This may be a self-imposed stigma or a fear of others’ reactions if they find out about the depression.
  • Social Media. Several recent studies have shown that teenage and young adult users who spend more time on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms report a higher rate of depression than those who spend less time on social media. These studies show a correlation, not causation, but it is worth a serious look at how social media is affecting students negatively.
  • School Pressure. Many students experience some degree of academic pressure. However, an uncertain economy and tough competition for college make that pressure worse. It is important to note that school and academic pressure exists outside of deciding what your options will be after graduating from high school. That being said, there is a great emphasis and pressure put on getting into college. Students feel the pressure to be successful in school from a very young age. Even as early as elementary school, students share concerns about being successful in school and making “good grades.”
  • Relationships. Many students experience their first serious romantic relationships in high school or college. While this is an essential part of adolescent development, it can also be emotionally challenging. This is particularly true if students do not have guidance and support in navigating this new terrain.
  • Lack of Coping Skills. Today’s students are more protected than in the past. Parents try to shield them from experiencing failure and disappointment, so students often have fewer chances to build resilience. They do not learn how to cope with challenges.
  • Brain development. The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls self-regulation, is not fully developed in children and adolescents. As a result, they have a limited ability to exert control over their impulses. This leads to students engaging in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse and unsafe sexual choices, which can negatively impact mental health.
  • Lack of Time Outdoors. Today’s students spend so much time doing homework and on screens that they do not get outside enough. Richard Louv coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder” in 2005. It refers to the fact that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral and mental health problems, including depression.
  • Bullying. Research has found that bullying and depression in school are often related. A study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that victims of cyber bullying showed more signs of depression than other bullying victims. Moreover, children who bully others also have an increased rate of depression in school years.


This list can be discouraging, but there are many resources available to help. In addition to the books we have shared below, we have a FREE My Unique Gifts craftivity based on the book A Flicker of Hope that you can do with students. In this activity kids will explore their own special gifts and qualities that they can share with others. “You are needed. You are here for a reason. No one else in the world has a light like yours!”

Written by Melisa Marsh.

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