Depression

According to Mental Health America, one in every five teens has clinical depression. Teenagers are naturally moody at times so teenage depression is often overlooked. There is also a difference between serious depression and sadness. All humans feel sadness – usually a reaction to an event or situation. Depression is much more than that. Depression is a long-term illness (at least two weeks) that often has no cause.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Anger and irritability
  • Insomnia (not sleeping enough) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • Extreme fatigue and loss of energy
  • Withdrawal from certain people – but not everyone
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Frequent crying
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor academic performance
  • Lack of concentration
  • Thoughts of death and suicide

Risk factors for depression:

  • Brain chemicals – too much or too little of certain chemicals can cause depression
  • Family history
  • Life events – death or divorce, etc
  • Some medications have negative side effects that cause depression

How can I feel better?

  • Maintain relationships with your family and friends, and talk to them about your feelings
  • Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out – teachers, coaches, and doctors can help you
  • Ask your parents to schedule an appointment for you to talk with a therapist
  • Stay social – even when you really do not want to, staying social will help you feel better
  • Do not hang out with friends who are bad influences – friends who are drinking, doing drugs, or skipping school are not the people who will make you feel better
  • Physical exercise and a nutritious diet
  • Avoid drinking and drugs

What can I do to help a depressed friend?

  • Talk to your friend – say you notice he/she is not acting like themselves and ask how you can help
  • Be a good listener and do not judge
  • Encourage them to talk to an adult
  • Maintain the friendship even during the tough times that will follow
  • If you suspect your friend is suicidal tell an adult immediately

(references: KidsHealth, Suicide Prevention Research Center, Mental Health America, National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)