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Teen Depression - Information for Parents

December 13, 2013  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

Depression is a major issue for teens nationally and locally. According to the National Institute of Mental Health more than 10 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 with girls being more likely than boys to experience depression.  And, the World Health Organization notes that depression is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.

Not unlike other areas in the country, Cape Cod has a significant population of teens and young adults who suffer from depression. Our high rate of teen suicide lead to the formation of the Cape and Islands Youth Suicide Prevention Project, a program of Community Health Center of Cape Cod that trains the community to recognize young people at risk for suicide and intervene quickly. According to the Barnstable County Human Services Department the suicide rate among young people on the Cape and Islands is more than twice the state average.

Recognizing Depression in Preadolescents and Adolescents 

Many teens may periodically be sullen or moody, but the following symptoms, especially if they last for more than two weeks, may indicate that your child is depressed:

  • a feeling of being down in the dumps or really sad for no reason
  • a lack of energy, feeling unable to do the simplest task
  • an inability to enjoy the things that used to bring pleasure
  • a lack of desire to be with friends or family members
  • feelings of irritability, anger, or anxiety
  • an inability to concentrate that may interfere with school
  • difficulty coping with problems and daily activities
  • a marked weight gain or loss (or failure to gain weight as expected), and too little or too much interest in eating
  • a significant change in sleep habits, such as trouble falling asleep or getting up
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • aches and pains even though nothing is physically wrong
  • threats of self-harm or harm to others
  • increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • a lack of caring about what happens in the future
  • frequent thoughts about death or suicide

Getting Help

If you are concerned that your child is suffering from depression your first step should be a consultation with your child’s pediatrician or family physician. Discussing your concerns with a school guidance counselor may also be helpful and give you a better understanding of how your child is handling school situations. There are local resources that also can provide evaluation and referral, if needed; several of these are listed in the  “Find Help” section of this website.

Depression and the Holidays

Each of us celebrates the holiday season in our own way, whether we’re hoping for a blanket of snow at our favorite ski resort, a family vacation on a warm beach, catching up with friends, or spending time with family. 

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, good cheer, and optimism for the new year, many of us experience seasonal “blues.” In these divisive times fraught with concerns about world events and the ugliness of national politics, some of us feel lonely, reflect on past failures, and are anxious about an uncertain future.

On top of this, you may have increased stress and fatigue due to the increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, kids home from college, and houseguests.

Many people also have a post-holiday letdown after January 1; family and friends leave, the Christmas tree is shedding, the kids go back to school, and the local weather can be dreary.

One year ago the lives of the people of Newtown changed forever on December 14. We should all be reminded by this tragic event that the meaning of the holiday season is to be thankful for the people in our lives. So however you celebrate, the staff and the Steering Committee of the Falmouth Prevention Partnership wish you a joyous, peaceful, and loving holiday season. 

Depression Resources

Understanding Depression from KidsHealth.org. An excellent article that gives a clear explanation of depression and how to help your teen. The site also provides access to depression information for school aged children and teens in language appropriate to their age.

Teen Mental Health from MedlinePlus.gov. Provides access to a wealth of information about adolescent mental health issues. All sites and information recommended by Medline are credible and accurate. 

Teen Depression from the Mayo Clinic. An in-depth look at adolescent depression including answers from Mayo Clinic mental health experts and a depression blog. 

 

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