Although beauty pageants have their fair share of critics and advocates, many young contestants consider them to be life-changing experiences which help them feel empowered. Teen girls consider taking part in a beauty pageant as a rite of passage. And there are teens like the 17-year-old Tracy McQuiston from Wahpeton, North Dakota, who want to compete in a pageant to spread the message of hope.
McQuiston has been battling depression and dysgraphia, a learning disability, since her childhood. She is one among eight children in her family who has received home education. Starting mid-January 2018, McQuiston will be competing in the Miss Teen North Dakota International pageant where she is representing Wahpeton. The pageant requires each participant to adopt a platform – a cause, community service or charity of their choice – which they will represent during the year. McQuiston wants to promote a simple but profound message: “Hope for All.”
“Depression and learning disabilities can make anyone feel vulnerable,” said McQuiston. Till a few years ago, the teen dreaded asking for help. “Hope for All” seeks to inspire people across age groups to support others who are terrified of asking for necessary help, thereby spreading hope in the process. According to her, several people want to help others with depression and learning disabilities but may not know how to go about doing so.
Helping to ‘rise above the labels’
McQuiston was motivated by her personal experience of the fear and frustration which accompanied her depression and learning disabilities. By competing in the pageant, she wants to increase awareness about these issues and also help foster an environment where people are not scared of seeking help. She feels that by working together, everyone will “rise above the labels.” She was also inspired by Angelina Yarbrough, the winner of Mrs. North Dakota International in 2017, who previously lived in Wahpeton and served as the teen’s youth pastor.
For now, McQuiston is focused on promoting her message of hope, which is what she has always wanted to do before a large group of people. If she wins the title, she will consider it “a bonus.” However, McQuiston’s endeavors do not end with the pageant. Her other initiatives include starting a focus group to help kids and teens with homework and studying, setting up a life group for community members with depression and suicidal thoughts, and encouraging people to donate to a charitable foundation which assists families whose children have learning disabilities and other impairments/disorders.
Rising incidence of teen depression
In 2016, 3.1 million American adolescents aged 12 to 17 (12.8 percent of the age group) had a major depressive episode (MDE), and 2.2 million adolescents (9 percent) had MDE with severe impairment. Findings from a recent study showed that although depression is increasing across all age groups in the U.S., the rate of increase for depression in teenagers and adolescents was significantly higher between 2005 and 2015. The higher incidence among teens can be attributed to many causes including family economic hardships, cyberbullying and problematic social media use.
Past research also found that teen girls are more susceptible to depression. Girls may frequently be exposed to wider range of stressors, thereby increasing their risk for developing depression. While boys have a higher likelihood of playing video games, girls are more likely to dominate image-centric social media platforms, particularly Intsagram and Snapchat.
Treatment for teen depression
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), of the 3.1 million adolescents with MDE, only 40.9 percent received treatment in 2016, while 46.7 percent of the 2.2 million adolescents who had an MDE with severe impairments received treatment. Untreated depression among adolescents is a predictor of several mental health issues during adulthood, particularly anxiety disorders, substance use disorders (SUDs), bipolar disorder and suicidal behavior.
Although depression often remains undiagnosed, it can be treated. Mental health facilities of Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego combine cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and group and individual therapies to provide holistic treatment for depression in teenagers. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives for more information on our treatment programs which aid the recovery of teens with depression.