Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youths between 15 to 24 in the US. Youth suicide rates rose 56 percent in less than two decades according to the Public Broadcasting Service. With the staggering numbers, it is important to delve into their causes.
One of the major reasons teens commit suicide is depression. A better understanding of this mental health issue will hopefully position you better in dealing with it and help lower suicide numbers.
Mayo Clinic defines teen depression as a mental health issue that causes persistent sadness and disinterest in activities. Depression can manifest itself in behavioral, emotional, functional, and physical problems. Symptoms can differ between teens and adults.
Depression can’t be overcome by willpower alone and leaving it untreated can cause serious consequences. For most cases, long-term treatments like medication and psychological counseling can help ease symptoms over time.
The main signs of teen depression to look out for can be classified into three symptom groups. It is important to note changes in their behavior and attitude that cause issues at school, at home, and in social activities.
Some symptoms are psychological and often manifest themselves through behavioral changes, including the following:
- persistent sad mood
- feeling hopeless and empty
- having a fixation on past failures
- feeling helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling unreasonably guilty with exaggerated self-blame
- feeling irritable and intolerant of situations
- disinterest in activities and things
- persistent indecision
- difficulty in getting enjoyment from life
- anxiety and excessive worrying
- having thoughts of self-harm
- having thoughts of dying and suicide
Some teen depression symptoms have physical manifestations and can tangibly be observed.
- Slower rate of speaking than usual
- Slowed thinking and body movements
- Changes in appetite and/or weight (often decreased, but can also be increased)
- Loss of energy or unexplained fatigue
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Unexplained physical pains and aches
- Agitation and restlessness
- Changes to the menstrual cycle
- Disturbed sleep
These symptoms spill over other aspects of the teen’s life and into their social activities.
- Taking part in fewer social activities
- Avoiding contact with friends
- Neglecting hobbies and interests
- Use of alcohol
- Use of drugs
- Poor school performance sometimes due to frequent absences
- Risky behavior
- Fits of rage
- Frequent visits to the school clinic
An open and safe conversation should be the take-off point. Find out whether these challenges seem overwhelming and if they’re ready to seek help. Ups and downs are part of the adolescent life and it should be a mutual decision whether help should be sought.
If depression symptoms persist, consult a doctor or a mental health professional that work with teens. Your family’s doctor may not be trained for this, but they are a good start. They may even recommend colleagues for you. You can also speak with your teen’s school and ask if they recommend someone.
If your teen is suffering from an addiction, it may be time to consider drug treatment centers. Aside from addressing their addiction with drugs or alcohol, these centers often have in-house counselors that can focus on your teen.
If you think your teen is in immediate danger of hurting themselves, call 911. Stay with them until the situation settles down. You can also take them to the emergency room.
Teen depression is one of the biggest causes of teen suicide. Understanding these issues will improve the way you deal with the situation and create a safer, more understanding space for everyone involved.