Major depression is a serious mental health illness that can have severe consequences for teens and adults. Research shows that as many as 66 percent of teens with depression are undiagnosed by their primary care physicians and are not getting the required help and treatment they need. Jasmine Reese, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is the director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic. She shares what we need to know and understand about teen depression and how we can help.
What is depression?
Depression is a very serious yet common mental disorder that involves a variety of symptoms including feeling sad, down and sometimes hopeless that interfere with someone’s daily life for at least two weeks. These feelings of sadness are more serious than just someone who has a bad day at school or is feeling sad because they were in an argument with a friend.
National high school student surveys have shown that about:
- 30 percent felt sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks
- 14 percent had a suicide plan
- 7 percent attempted suicide
What are some of the signs and symptoms of depression?
Depression can make people act and feel different ways. Children and adolescents might have difficulty concentrating, getting their school work done, they might have a poor appetite or even greater appetite than they usually do. They can also have trouble sleeping or lose interest in activities they used to be involved in. They might seem more tired, irritable, angry, or very sad and tired all of the time. Sometimes a person may complain of frequent headaches, stomach pains or other body aches.
What should you do if your child or teen is dealing with depression?
Take your child’s feelings seriously. Be a listening ear but also seek help and resources from your pediatrician or local mental health providers. Offer to be there for them or even to help them find the right person to talk to whether it’s a counselor, the pediatrician or another trusted adult. Especially if you are worried that your teen or child is feeling hopeless or making comments about wanting or planning to end their life, you should treat this as an emergency and seek help immediately by taking them to the Emergency Center. That child should not be left alone and you should have a safety plan in place including removing or storing away sharp objects.
How does a parent or a friend start the conversation?
You can say something like, “I am here for you any time you need to talk about anything” or “I noticed you have been feeling down lately, let’s talk about it.” Try not to be judgmental or suggest easy fixes. Take their feelings seriously and suggest they seek help from a trusted adult or medical professional who can help get them the right medical care.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.
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