Keep Teen Depression in Check

Some degree of depression has always been characteristic of adolescence. However, it has been affecting many young people more severely lately. Suicide attempts have increased. Many keep their feelings hidden, and this has caused many parents concern. 

Because of the biochemical changes and stress on teenagers, depression typically affects those between 12 and 18 years of age. As their bodies change quickly, academic and social pressures increase at the same time. 

As children age, doctors can more easily identify biochemical depression. This occurs when one has inherited a gene that causes depression. A professional can also determine the type of depression. Unfortunately, typical depression often goes overlooked. Adolescence can be an emotionally hard time. 

Authorities believe the current increase in numbers and severity can be partially attributed to increased reliance on technology. Teenagers text rather than talk. Young people often play games on their phones rather than interact with other people. With more time spent on phones and computers, physical activity becomes more limited. Physical activity and interaction with people are necessary parts of human life. 
Children troubled by depression cannot always be easily identified. How one appears externally is not always consistent with how one feels internally. Self-doubt, feelings of aloneness, failure and fear go unexpressed. The need to be seen a certain way by peers often prompts children to hide their true feelings from their friends. Many don’t know how to share feelings and thoughts with parents. Young people often journal their feelings and then keep them to themselves. Some write poetry or do artwork that expresses sad feelings. 

I advocate open communication in families. Teaching children the language of feelings when they are young creates a language that helps them communicate their status. Face-to-face conversations are invaluable. They are crucial to create these meaningful, one-on-one times with our children. If we do this somewhat frequently, children get used to having times to share thoughts and feelings without distraction. Other ways to spend time together include: taking a walk, having a meal or going for a bike ride. 

I discourage interrogating a child. Instead, be observant, involved and available. Have a conversation about depression and its role in people’s lives. Everyone will feel depressed at some time: the loss of an animal, failing a test, losing a friend. Disappointment can be difficult. Wisdom comes from talking with someone who will listen. Talk about adolescent depression. Encourage activities with friends and less time on phones and computers. Mention talking to someone outside the family as an option if a child should prefer it. 

Adults can seek counseling themselves if they have concerns. Better explore rather than regret.