Teen Depression: A Reality

Teen+Depression%3A+A+Reality

Stephanie Dilworth

Clinically depressed students may face additional challenges at school.

Stephanie Dilworth, Opinion's Editor

Depression is not something most people bring up in conversation, especially in high school. Many of those who are quietly struggling with depression may not be receiving the help they need.  This is because depression has been stigmatized by society as a weakness or flaw instead of a medical condition that requires treatment.

In recent years more attention has been paid to teen depression because of the suicide rate among adolescents and because the pressures and because stresses that teens face are finally being more acknowledged. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15-24 and 30% of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide.

“Medically, teen depression is not very different from adult depression,” said Dr. Kelly Kling, a psychologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Pontiac. “The difference is that teens have different stresses such as hormonal changes, peer pressure, and academic stresses.”

The general symptoms of depression often include moods such as irritability, guilty feelings, thoughts of inadequacy or hopelessness, loss of interest in usual activities, social withdrawal, and suicidal thoughts. Cognitive (ways of thinking) symptoms also include poor concentration, poor memory, indecision, slow thinking, or loss of motivation. Last, bodily symptoms include sleep disturbances such as insomnia, appetite disturbance followed by significant weight gain or loss, fatigue, or frequent headaches, according to Francis Mark Mondimore, M.D. in his novel, Adolescent Depression.

Depressed adolescents may have trouble keeping up their grades, getting involved in extracurricular activities, or maintaining friendships which are important to their human development and future education. It becomes even more of a dilemma when depressed students don’t feel comfortable explaining why they are doing so poorly in school.

“If it came to my attention that a student was possibly struggling with depression, I would first talk with that student in order to assess the situation,” said Mercy counselor Mrs. Blaise Lowe. “If necessary, I would contact the student’s parents to let them know my concerns and possibly refer them to a therapist that would be able to work with their daughter outside of school.”

The real difference between having “the blues” and being clinically depressed is that while “the blues” eventually pass on their own, clinical depression does not. The greatest indicator of depression is a consistent change in attitude in which an individual exhibits depressive symptoms over several weeks, according to Kathleen McCoy, PhD in her novel Understanding Your Teenager’s Depression.

“You can have a biological predisposition to depression if a family member had depression,” said Dr. Kling. “But you can also have someone who experiences a major loss or trauma, something very stressful that can trigger depression.”

Although anyone with depression has a lot to cope with, teens with depression especially face many challenges. Most adults have the option of regularly going to therapy sessions and can even take antidepressants, while teenagers might not be able to do so. Some parents aren’t comfortable with their child seeing a therapist or taking medication for depression. Unfortunately for depressed teenagers, if parents believe that their teen is just “going through a phase” they may refuse to allow their children to get any treatment for depression.

“Some parents are afraid to find out that there is really a problem because it would be very anxiety-provoking for parent to accept that their child has mental health problems,” said Dr. Kling. “Or parents may downplay the possibility of depression by normalizing symptoms.”

Many antidepressants such as Pristiq are not approved for use in children under 18 because they have been proven to increase suicidal thoughts or actions in young adults. However, antidepressants do not automatically increase suicidal thoughts in every teen. Antidepressants can work really well for teens if they are monitored very closely, such as watching for increased irritability and having a checkup within two to three weeks after the medication is prescribed.

Depression can be treated, but not cured at this point. There is no real list of do’s and don’ts for coping with depression as different methods work for different people. However, stress-relieving activities such as listening to music or doing yoga have been known to help with depression.

A teenager who is concerned that she may be clinically depressed should talk to her parents, a counselor, or a trusted teacher. Anyone considering suicide can call the free and confidential National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.