One in five young people have at least one mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges. One in ten youth have challenges that are severe enough to impair how they function at home, school, or in the community. And unbelievably, four out of five children do not receive the mental health care they need to overcome their diagnosis. With suicide being the 3rd leading cause of death in adolescents, it’s important to know the signs of depression and be ready to help.
Etiology of Depression
Depression tends to run in families, and adolescents who experience depression have a greater risk for depression in adulthood. Adolescent depression can lead to social problems at home and school, academic failure, self-injury, substance abuse and suicide.
Warning Signs for Depression:
• Unusual sadness, irritability, or acting out
• Losing interest in things previously enjoyed
• Changes in appetite or weight
• Major shifts in sleep patterns (especially sleeping more)
• Lethargy or decreased energy
• Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
• Diminished academic performance
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Aches and pains with no physical explanation
Early detection and intervention strategies for mental health issues improve children’s resilience and ability to succeed. Adolescents enrolled in mental health treatment (whether at school or privately) show less oppositional behavior, less aggressive behavior, and are less likely to require special education services. Counseling can be individual or it can include the family, depending on the situation.
How to Help
· Acknowledge your child’s struggles and offer to help however he/she would like. Adolescents are at the developmental stage where they want to assert control. Be a supportive and understanding adult in his/her life.
· Find a mental health provider who is sensitive to adolescents’ development and needs. Not all mental health counselors enjoy working with youth. Ask questions on the phone or in person about the therapist’s comfort and experience with adolescents.
· Encourage your child to maintain his/her social engagements (sports, church, arts, music groups, etc.). Studies show that even if adolescents don’t want to attend a social event, they often end up enjoying it once they’re there. Social activities help to physiologically and mentally reduce depression.