A PARENTS GUIDE TO

Teen Depression

20% of young teenagers and adolescents in the world face depression before they become adults and it is not the easiest illness to diagnose.

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Teen Suicide

In America alone, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10 to 24. These suicide victims had previously shown symptoms of depression alongside one or more other mental disorders. Between 2009 and 2017, there was a report of more than 60% increase in the rate of depression among teenage children aged 14-17.

Increased Rate of Depression in Teens

The increased rate of depression was also found to be up to 47% in adolescents aged 12-13 and 46 % in young adults aged 18-21. According to the study, more than one in eight young Americans between the ages of 12 and 25 had a major depressive episode in the year 2017.

According to statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, about 3.2million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 had at least one major depressive episode in 2017. This is about 13.3% of all adolescents in the United States. This major depressive disorder was prevalent among females (20%) and biracial children and adolescents (16.9%). This means that depression poses a real threat to the health of young teenagers and adolescents in the world and worse still, the rate continues to increase.

Often times, it is mistaken for mere sadness and it is not taken as seriously as it should. There is a need to understand the major difference between sadness and depression. While sadness is something everybody feels and it goes away with time, depression is a medical disorder where an individual has a deep feeling of sadness and hopelessness without an escape route. These feelings in a depressed person do not just go away and it affects every aspect of an individual’s life.

The Affects of Depression

In teenagers, depression affects their ability to function normally, it affects their physical, emotional, mental wellbeing. Their moods, thoughts, academic performance and behavior are affected and they become less interested in any activities, are often fatigued and unable to sleep, irritable and have no appetite.

At the same time, some teenagers find it difficult to deal with their academics in school in which case, they may have a learning disability. They may also have to deal with environmental changes and changes at home. A lot of young adults have battled with one early childhood trauma or the other. Teenagers who have lost someone they love or separated parents find it difficult. They generally feel like the world is spinning too fast and everything is out of their control.

The exact causes of depression in teenagers are not known but there are a lot of possible factors. There are a lot of emotional changes as well as physical changes as a child grows. These changes occur very fast in the lives of the adolescent that it may become overwhelming. They may battle with sporadic changes in their body and hormone imbalances which may trigger depression.

The Causes of Teen Depression

Some teenagers may also deal with situations such as abuse and neglect at home or bullying in school. All of which they are unable to handle very well mentally or emotionally. They develop a depressive disorder.

Abnormal or impaired brain chemistry also causes depression in young adults. When the brain chemicals or neurotransmitters that transport brain signals from the brain to different parts of the body are impaired, the nerve system may be affected which sends the individual into a depressive state. Other causes of depressive disorders include learned patterns of behavior when a young adult feels incapable of providing useful solutions to difficult situations and feels helpless and hopeless which further leads them into a depressive state.

Depression may also be inherited. It is possible to find the illness that occurs in a family where it is common in the family. This is not to say that everyone in the family will experience depression in their lives but it is possible to find a case of depression in the family where depression was common.There are many risk factors for teen depression including having a different sexual orientation in an unsupportive environment, obesity, sexual abuse, and violence, having continuous pain from a physical illness such as cancer or asthma and dealing with other mental illnesses. These risk factors are possible triggers for depressive disorder in a young adult.

Many adolescents and teenagers may also begin substance abuse, intake of drugs and alcohol when they face difficult situations or have a mental illness which may further trigger them into a state of major depressive disorder.

Warning Signs

There are severalwarning signs in teenagers who are depressed. These depression symptoms mayseem caused by a bad day or mood swings when examined on their own. However,when the signs are coupled with other signs and prevalent over a long period oftime, then it is best to see a medical professional and get help. These signsinclude:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family                              
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • A feeling of deep sadness and hopelessness    
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Difficulty remembering of organizing
  • Loss of interest
  • Lowered self esteem
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Self-sabotage and guilt
  • Irritable and annoyed
  • Anger and sudden outbursts
  • self harm
  • Twisted sense of future and pessimism  
  • conflict with family members
  • A feeling of worthlessness    
  • Anxiety, and Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Drugs and Alcohol abuse
  • Self-mutilation, suicidal thoughts, plan or attempt

Suicide Attempts

With the continuing decline in the mental health of young people, major depressive disorder increases the risk of suicide in adolescents and teenagers. In 2017, 7.4% of students in grades 9-12 in the United States were reported to have made at least one suicide attempt, with the rate higher in females (9.3%) than in males (5.1%).

About 2.4% of all the student population made a suicide attempt that required medical treatment. In the same year, the rate of suicide in young adults and teens between the ages of 15-24 was 14.46%. Often associated with major depression, people who exhibit any of the symptoms have a high tendency of attempting suicide. Coupled with other symptoms, very important signs are that the teenager may begin to talk of death a lot; romanticizing death, write poems about death and even give away most prized possessions.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone is who at the risk of committing suicide, has attempted or has thoughts of suicide, it is important to get emergency help and call a suicide hotline.

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) which is available at all times of the day. You can also use the webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

How to get help

It is important to not ignore the signs and get in touch as soon as possible when you or someone you know is at risk.

To get treatment for teen clinical depression or major depressive disorder, the help of a mental health professional at a health care facility is required. The earlier the treatment commences, the better and more effective it is. The professional therapist may use one or a combination of treatments to help the depressed teenager.

Psychotherapy: This is also called talk therapy where the professional sits one-on-one with the patient to help sort out the challenges the teenager faces through counseling. Psychotherapy is an evidence-based approach that may be in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Problem-solving therapy or Interpersonal therapy. The professional is able to use these approaches to tackle the specific issues the teenager faces as well as care for the needs.

Group therapy is also a useful approach to treating depression is young adults as it exposes them to peers; age mates and/or classmates who are the same situation as them. Sharing stories and experiences help them to understand themselves better. It also gives them better self-confidence and security. They feel better about their situation and better prepared to face it, allow treatment and get better.

Family Therapy is useful as well. Adolescents, teenagers, and young adults need to feel loved by their families. The family members are taught to better communicate with them, listen better, prioritize spending time with them and provide for the special needs they may have.

Medication management may also be used in treatment alongside psychotherapy for teenage depression. Antidepressant medications are used to treat depression. These antidepressants improve how the brain uses certain chemicals to regulate moods and stress. The right antidepressant may differ from patient to patient and it may take some time to find the right one.The Institute of Mental Health also recommends the use of Brain Stimulation Therapies.

Brain Stimulation Therapies such as Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
provides relief to people suffering from severe depression and it may be used when other approaches to treatment do not seem to improve the patient’s situation. Beyond treatment, however, it is useful to engage in regular exercising, spending time with friends and family rather than being isolated, get educated on depression, set realistic life goals and expect gradual improvement when you feel like you may be depressed.

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