Recently a friend told me about a middle school child in her town that took his own life. Few had noticed the severity of the depression before the tragic suicide. Sometimes adults overlook the symptoms of depression in teenagers and attribute the behaviors to normal teenage angst or moodiness. Unfortunately, adolescent depression and suicide is increasing at an alarming rate. The number of adolescents between the ages of 15-24 that commit suicide annually has tripled since 1960. Suicide is now the 3rd cause of death in that age group and the 2nd cause of death in college age students. Below are some of the symptoms of depression for adolescents. Pay special attention if these symptoms last longer than 2 weeks:
- Avoiding family, friends, or activities they previously enjoyed
- Often angry, irritable, even about minor things
- A decrease in school performance
- Sadness, hopelessness, lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Overreaction to criticism
- Poor concentration
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Substance abuse
- Frequent physical complaints
- Neglecting appearance
- Self-harm, such as cutting
- Talk of suicide
These symptoms along with some of the risk factors of depression are important to watch for. Those risk factors include: 1) a family history of depression, alcoholism, or other mental illness, 2) having a family member who has committed suicide, 3) experiencing family dysfunction or a stressful life event or trauma.
If you believe your teenager is depressed take him/her to see a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. Counseling, with sometimes medication, is a highly effective treatment for teenage depression.
There is also help available at the suicide hotline 800–273-8255.