Julie sighs wistfully as her mother tells her stories of her childhood; first jumping in mud puddles, then laughing and running in soccer games, then driving around with her friends to discover new places and thrilling adventures. Julie has experienced this youthful joy to an extent, but never without guilt and regret.
In today’s society, children are essentially being raised with the primary goal of getting into impressive schools. This is not necessarily our parents’ fault, but rather the pressure that our culture as a whole inflicts upon young people. Academics are extremely important, and education leads to understanding and progress. However, the culture of the United States of America (along with other cultures) morphs this idea of “learning” into one of “winning.” Many students are no longer participating in extracurriculars because of interest, but rather, they are participating in order to appear impressive in the eyes of admissions counselors. Childhood should be a time of growth, of curiosity, of experimentation, not a time of anxiety and depression.
Depression in adolescents has risen exponentially in recent years. According to a 2015 report by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24. HealthResearchFunding.org estimates that in the United States today, roughly 5,400 teenagers attempt suicide daily. There are many factors contributing to suicide and depression, the primary of which is mental illness. For many of these young people who have been touched by depression, the societal and academic pressure is what puts them over the top. Unless our society supports playful and curious childhoods, these numbers are expected to continue to rise at rapid rates.
Not only are today’s adolescents plagued by anxiety due to unrealistic beauty and social standards, but they are also constantly held under the weight of academic pressure. Our society often mistakes academic growth for personal growth when, in fact, they are two completely different concepts. Academic growth contributes greatly to personal growth, but personal growth is so much more than a test score. It is learning, discovering, experiencing.