Being an adolescent can be tough sometimes. You will go through many physical changes, peer pressure, and at times, mental health issues. This whole process plus internal challenges and psychological distress can be draining and heavy—sometimes, they can even make us feel helpless. In a report conducted by UNICEF (2021) that tackles many aspects of adolescent mental health, a common theme I noticed as I read through the report is the act of showing you’re okay when you are truly, deeply, not doing fine internally.
“I have depression, but when I am with other people, I am like showing to be super well, I don’t like that people see me doing badly”, says an older adolescent girl from Chile (UNICEF, 2021). More statements like this are made by adolescents throughout the Depression section of the Emotional Challenges part of the report. Masking depression seems to be a common thing adolescents go through.
In 2020, an approximation of 4.1 million adolescents between 12-17 had gone through at least one major depressive episode with females reporting a higher rate than males (National Institute of Mental Health, 2022). Still, we never know who else has gone through a depressive episode and just hid it with a smile.
Masking depression in adolescents can be alarming as it makes the adolescent repress their true feelings and moves them away from resources that they may benefit from. When we look deeply into the “masking” of depression, we start to see that there is a root cause of it. A huge part could be a cultural stigma or a toxic family environment in general. As much as it is something we want to solve right away, this matter takes a lot of time, patience, and research. For now, being aware that this happens is already a great start.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2022). Major Depression.
UNICEF. (2021). ON MY MIND: How adolescents experience and perceive mental health around the world. https://www.unicef.org/media/119751/file