Depression is not an emotion, but a way of thinking. It controls what one does, how one thinks about themselves, and how one lives their life altogether. According to U.S. News, a study was published in May 2017 finding that more than one-third of adolescent females in the United States experience a first episode of depression (1). Young girls are more sensitive to the distress of others and put more importance on their relationships and friendships with their peers. Our program targets adolescent female students between the ages of 14-18 from Los Angeles, California. Young girls between the ages of 14-18 are being pressured to fit within social norms; however, some of them fail to do so and are more likely to have low self-esteem and depression. It is imperative to note that depression has a core relationship with the mental functioning capability of the victims or depressed people. The cognitive capability of people suffering from depression is found to be “unstable.” This means a depressed person experiences change in their mood and attitude. Other research associates the condition of mood swing with impaired personality. Therefore, the young girls who formed part of the priority population for this study found it hard to concentrate with their class work or any other tasks they took on. At times, in a more severe case, a person who experiences depression may find both their mental and physical capability incapacitated. Hence, the individual may not be able to think correctly or attend to simple chores in the best way.
This problem is a priority health issue because adolescence is a crucial time in development, where an individual’s potential for successful transition into productive and healthy adulthood occurs. At this age, one can detect any mental disorders that may follow them through adulthood. Nonetheless, females are more at risk of depression as they have a higher incidence rate than males. This can be due to their hormones when puberty hits. In addition, it has been found that females are more likely than males to use the new means of communication, which expose them to more cyberbullying or other negative effects of the latest social media. Adolescent females are very vulnerable in defining themselves to others which can make them devastated. Research has shown that cognitive vulnerabilities associated with depression, such as negative cognitive style and rumination, emerge during adolescence. Adolescents who tend to interpret events in negative ways and who tend to focus on their depressed mood following such events are at greater risk of depression.
Since 1864, Girls Inc. has gained the knowledge, perspective, mindset, resources and skills to help flourish and empower young girls in need. Many changes are happening at Girls Inc., and the new Network-Wide Policy & Advocacy Platform has given priority to supporting the mental health in females. Our partnerships with organizations such as Child Trend and Adventures of the Mind, provide resources, tools and skills that will be implemented into the program. The non-profit organization Child Trend bestowed data regarding depression among young adults and their family. Because of this motivation to have young girls serve as advocates of each other, we have received a very generous donation of $20,000 from the Los Angeles Giving Circle to run the program. The $20,000 will be invested in the six month after-school based program.
A similar existing program, Erika’s Lighthouse, educates school communities about adolescent depression, destigmatizing mental health, and how one can empower adolescents to take control of their mental health.
There are also other similar existing programs that address depression, mostly affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO). Among these programs include the mental health Gap Action Program (mhGAP) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT).
Girls Inc. is different from many other organizations because it focuses primarily on delivering life-changing programs and experiences that prepare adolescent females to overcome barriers in their life, so that they can grow up strong, intelligent and impowered. Girls. Inc. focuses on creating a positive approach to empowering women who may be struggling with depression, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. Our program under Girls. Inc. will reach out to adolescent females in Los Angeles, California to educate, support, and bring awareness to the importance of accepting who one is as an individual. Our program will also aim to cover the topic of social media and its effects on self perception, body image, and self-esteem. Young adolescents in our society today are surrounded by technology, and will most likely have their own Facebook or Instagram account by the time they reach high school. This is concerning because many of these adolescents, will already start comparing themselves to others around them in a negative way. It is important for Girls. Inc and other organizations to reach out to adolescent females and males early on, in order to prevent suicide, sexual harassment, depression and many other negative cases.