According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 13% of adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2015. Because the teenage years are a difficult time for youth and their families, it can be difficult to understand if a teen is experiencing general moodiness, a passing case of “the blues” or actual depression. Teens don’t usually understand their own feelings or know how to express themselves very well, so it is up to parents and adults in their lives to be aware of the symptoms of depression. Symptoms may vary depending on the person, but if some or all of the following symptoms last for more than 2 weeks and interfere with your teen’s daily life, your teen may be depressed:
- Poor performance in school
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
- Irritability, anger or hostility
- Overreaction to criticism
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Drug or alcohol use
- Risk-taking behavior
- Sexual promiscuity
- Poor self-esteem or guilt
- Self harm
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Restlessness and agitation
- Changes in eating or sleeping
- Problems with authority
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression is a serious health problem that requires immediate attention by a medical or behavioral health professional. Treatment may include outpatient individual, group or family counseling to help the teen (and family members) learn why are they depressed and how to manage stressful situations. Medication may also be prescribed to help your teen feel better. If depression is left untreated, it can become life-threatening. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents 15 to 19 years old.
The Society for Prevention of Teen Suicide lists the following FACTS, or warning signs, that may mean a youth is at risk for suicide, particularly if that person has attempted suicide in the past:
Feelings – Expressing hopelessness about the future.
Actions – Displaying severe/overwhelming pain or distress.
Changes – Showing worrisome behavior or marked changes in behavior, including: withdrawal from friends or changes in social activities, anger or hostility or changes in sleep.
Threats – Talking about, writing about or making plans for suicide.
Situations – Experiencing stressful situations including those that involve loss or change, create personal humiliation or involve getting into trouble at home, in school or with the law. These kinds of situations can serve as triggers for suicide.
If you notice any of these warning signs, express your concern about what you are seeing in their behavior, ask them directly about suicide, encourage them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) and involve any adult they trust. If you have IMMEDIATE concern about someone’s safety, call 911 right away!
Click here for information about helping your teen through depression. We will also be discussing this in our next blog post.
Parents, talk to your teens. They will listen!