The nine year old of a close friend of hers tried to kill himself.
“He’s nine!!??!!” she said.
“How do you explain that?”
It’s true that we are all born with genes that predispose us to all sorts of things—in my case bipolar disorder and depression. And yes, our ancestors had these same genes. However, there is a new science called epigenetics (meaning “above” or “outside” of genetics), the study of cellular variations that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Dr. Pam Peeke, bestselling author of The Hunger Fix, explained it to me once in an interview. “If you can change certain key choices – your diet, how you handle stress, your physical activity – it’s like writing notes in the margin of your genome, and you can flip the switch to support and protect your health,” she said.
That’s where I think we have failed our youth. I believe we are creating a world in which the genes that are predisposed to anxiety and depression are getting “turned on” and developing into mood disorders because we don’t have the proper protections in place.
In a study published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, it was demonstrated that approximately one fourth of children and adolescents experience a mental disorder during the past year, and about one third across their lifetimes. The World Health Organization reported last year that depression is the predominant cause of illness and disability for both boys and girls aged 10 to 19 years.
Was this always the case?