Researchers and doctors say that depression and anxiety in teenagers, especially girls, is a rising problem in society, and that anxiety can hurt teenagers everywhere – not only in classrooms – thanks to access to social media.
Teenagers with depression and anxiety arising from peer pressure may exude a marked sense of sadness, hopelessness, inappropriate guilt, regret, disappointment, and worthlessness. They may not like going to school, because they are feeling unmotivated and hopeless about their situation.
In the past five days, three young girls are believed to have committed suicide in Ulaanbaatar. According to reports on the teen suicide rate in Mongolia, between 2012 and 2016, 92 teenagers have ended their own lives. The surviving family members of these teens reported that the suicides were linked to peer pressure, depression, domestic violence, and emotional pain.
Open Society Institute, the Educational Advising and Resource Center, and the Education and Psychology Faculty of Mongolian State University of Education conducted a survey among 1,047 teenage students from two schools in central Ulaanbaatar and three ger district schools in 2016. Nearly 40 percent of the students they surveyed said they had experienced some form of peer pressure.
Unfortunately, according to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report on 37 countries and areas in WHO’s Western Pacific Region, Mongolia ranked seventh in diagnosed mental disorders, sixth for its suicide rate, and third for diagnosed depressive disorders. There are 0.5 psychologists and 7.7 psychiatric nurses for every 100,000 Mongolians, 30 times lower than the ratio in highly developed countries.
Depression is an issue we have neglected, but the state and public need to take important action now by raising awareness about our teenagers living with depression. The theme of World Health Day 2017, observed on April 7, was “Depression: Let’s Talk”, indicating that there should be a greater focus on tackling the stigma, ignorance, and fear associated with depression.
The WHO launched a year-long campaign about depression in October 2016 and is continuing its efforts to improve mental health. WHO Representative in Mongolia Soe Nyunt U stated that depression can be prevented at a very low cost. If one dollar is invested in preventing depression, four dollars can be saved in return to provide people with access to resources for better mental health and energy.
One major challenge is that when someone is experiencing depression, they rarely seek out professional help on their own, and Mongolian students haven’t been raised in a culture or society that encourages them to ask doctors or their parents for help in facing problems like depression.
If your children are showing signs of depression, you need to talk to them about how long they have been feeling that way, how they feel about their problems, who is involved in making your children feel down, and what would help them address their problems. If they don’t want to talk to you, you need to take them to a psychologist to help them resolve their issues.
All parents and teachers must focus on raising awareness of the depression-related issues and peer pressure that their children and students may experience. Collaboration between parents and teachers is very important to taking on the issues facing our young generation. The government also needs to pay greater attention to creating better educational environments and systems that motivate our children to become strong and self-driven people.
Creating new positions for psychologists and counselors to help students at each Mongolian public school would be challenging financially, but is a necessary consideration. We need to take advantage of the resources already available that can help us deal with depression among students. Each school already has a social worker, so it could be possible for social workers to be better equipped to provide our students with the kind of emotional and mental health support they need.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sciences, and Sport could require that all social workers in Ulaanbaatar participate in smart and effective training courses throughout the year that could educate them about important issues, and equip them with essential skills for identifying emotional health issues and how to address them.
Some state and private universities offer students double major programs in social work and psychology, so there are already a number of social workers graduating with experience in psychology. Mongolian State University of Education, which shapes the work and careers of almost every teacher working in the Mongolian education system, has been offering a social work and psychology degree program for six years, so there are a great number of social workers out there who are not having their psychology skills put to more direct use in their day to day work.
Offering psychological counseling to students would not be difficult for many social workers, and it would fall under the responsibilities of their regular work with students.