Early detection is vital in combating teen depression and preventing suicide.
The key to suicide prevention is for educators and parents to take notice in changes in behavior.
“Educators and parents should pay attention to warning signs,” said Dr. Rachel Needle, licensed psychologist, West Palm Beach. “It’s important that you take red flags seriously. Don’t assume a comment is made in jest or without meaning. Look out for changes in appearance, hygiene, thoughts, eating, sleeping and feelings.”
If parents notice more severe signs such as threats of suicide both direct and indirect, acting out, giving away prized possessions, preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, social media and emotional distress a medical professional should be notified immediately.
“While there are many other risk factors, suicide attempts and thoughts about suicide are often associated with depression,” said Needle. “The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, state that suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, adolescents and young adults age 5-to-24-years-old.”
An estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 12.8% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17. The prevalence of major depressive episode was higher among adolescent females (19.4%) compared to males (6.4%). The prevalence of major depressive episode was highest among adolescents reporting two or more races (13.8%) according to a 2016 survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Race and ethnicity play a role in reported teen suicide attempts. The percentages of adults aged 18 or older having suicidal thoughts in the previous 12 months were 2.9% among blacks, 3.3% among Asians, 3.6% among Hispanics, 4.1% among whites, 4.6% among Native Hawaiians /Other Pacific Islanders, 4.8% among American Indians/Alaska Natives, and 7.9% among adults reporting two or more races, according to experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Changes in the home can trigger an episode of depression for a teen.
“Certain characteristics are associated with increased suicide risk,” said Dr. Robyn V. Cassel, licensed psychologist, Whole Health Psychological Center. “Previous suicide attempt(s), isolation, mental illness, family history of suicide, death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, breakup of a relationship/friendship, family violence and bullying are also characteristics.”
Suicide awareness and prevention are key to combating teen depression and suicide.
“There are protective factors that can lessen the effects of suicide risk factors,” said Cassel. “These can include family and peer support, school and community connectedness, healthy problem-solving skills and easy access to effective medical and mental health services. One symptom alone is not indicative of depression. Educate yourself and don’t ignore the warning signs. But remember that there are professionals who can help.”
Teen angst can have similar signs as depression. Students going long periods of time feeling sad or showing lack of interest in school or friends should seek the help of a medical professional.
“Regular sadness or angst is not the same thing as depression,” said Needle. “It’s important to be aware of warning signs of teen depression but to also make sure your child sees someone who specializes in treating adolescents.”
Early detection is vital and there are a variety of treatment options.
“Remember that treatment is possible and the sooner the better,” said Needle. “Teen depression can be successfully treated. Treatment will depend on a number of factors including the type and severity of the symptoms. Often a combination of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication can be very effective for most teens suffering from depression.”