In the aftermath of the several suicides of bullied students, it’s vital that we take a closer look at teenage depression. I’m not diminishing the severity of bullying, but many teenagers also suffer from other mental disorders that make them more vulnerable to taking extreme actions in response to bullying. Teenage depression isn’t just melancholy or “bad moods”–it’s long-lasting and often leads to drug abuse or problems in school and at home if it’s left untreated. Fortunately, teenage depression can be treated. As a concerned parent, teacher, friend, or other family member, there are things you can do to help spot depression problems and address them before they escalate to a sad and dramatic ending.
First, it is important to identify the signs and symptoms of teenage depression:
- sadness or hopelessness
- irritability, anger, or hostility
- withdrawal from friends and family
- fearfulness or frequent crying
- loss of interest in activities
- changes in eating or sleeping habits
- restlessness and agitation
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- fatigue or lack of energy
- difficulty concentrating
- suicidal thoughts
True, teenagers are usually moody, so it might be difficult to know for sure if your teenager is experiencing depression or normal teen angst. However, some of these signs are pretty obvious–like suicidal thoughts or tendencies. If you see your child writing suicidal poems or stories, or even joking about suicide, this is a red flag. Other “red flags” include giving away prized possessions or engaging in reckless behavior that would endanger their life.
The first thing you need to do if you suspect your teenager is depressed, is to talk to them about it. Offer your support, don’t criticize or judge them, but be persistent. After your initial talk, you will want to make an appointment with your family doctor for a further depression screening. After that, your doctor will probably direct you to a specialist if they are concerned about your child’s mental health. Make sure you discuss treatment options with your family doctor, and the specialist. Antidepressants aren’t always the best treatment, especially for rapidly developing teenage brains. However, these are things you should discuss with your child’s doctors. Overall, remember teenage depression is treatable, but it is important to spot it and get it treated before it’s too late.