Although the majority of those in the U.S. who suffer from depression are men and women older than 18, the mental illness does affect teens.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 2.8 million adolescents in the U.S. aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in 2014. That number represented 11.4 percent of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17, with the illness affecting three times as many females in that age range than males in that age range.
What’s more staggering is that Mental Health America estimates that one in five teens suffers from clinical depression.
What Causes Teen Depression?
Teens can be negatively impacted by a number of social, psychological, and physical challenges they face on a daily basis. These may include peer pressure, changing hormone levels especially Dopamine, developing bodies, relationship issues at home /outside and pressure to perform well in school and in sports.
Many teens overreact if things don’t go their way, and they can easily feel like life is unfair. This can lead to feelings of confusion, frustration, and stress. Furthermore, teens in today’s society can be especially affected by what they see in the media and how they experience and interact with the media, which is more prevalent and comes in various forms now than at any other time in history.
What Does Depression in Teens Look Like?
Like many adults who are afflicted with depression, some teens can appear sad, gloomy, and despondent. More frequently, however, the main symptom among depressed teens is irritability, which can present itself in the form of hostility, grumpiness, anger, or violence.
Some indications that a teen may be depressed are poor performance in school, withdrawal from social activities, low self-esteem, lack of concentration, problems with authority, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, and suicidal thoughts and actions.
Mental Health America states that each year, almost 5,000 people aged 15 to 24 kill themselves, a rate that has nearly tripled since 1960. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents.
Some studies suggest that four out of five teens who attempt suicide give overt warning signs ahead of time such as threatening to commit suicide, writing poems or stories that refer to death, getting rid of possessions, or behaving in irrational ways.
A note on antidepressants: while medication has been shown to help some people who suffer from depression, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that people under the age of 25 “may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed.”
How to Help Teens with Depression
When teens are depressed, there are a number of ways for them to find relief from the troublesome symptoms. To begin with, family members can present a platform on which teenagers feel comfortable in sharing their feelings and thoughts without feeling judged. Seek professional help early on to reduce the damage by making an appointment with a therapist and/or a psychiatrist. In addition, making new friends, participating in sports or other extracurricular activities, securing part-time employment, and volunteering are all avenues teens can explore to increase their self-esteem and self-worth, find meaning in life, and feel accepted.
Pay special attention on their diet, especially to their intake of water, and their vitamin D and Iron levels.
When depressed teens recognize that they need help to overcome their mental illness, they have taken the first step. It’s then up to family members, friends, teachers, and mentors to encourage them, support them and guide them in the right direction.
Again, please skim through my past Self Care posts to get few additional ideas!