The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment for Adolescent Depression and Suicide
Only in the past two decades has depression in adolescents been taken seriously. Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. Therefore it comes to no surprise to discover that adolescent depression is strongly linked to teen suicide. Adolescent suicide is now responsible for more deaths in youths aged 15 to 19 than cardiovascular disease or cancer (Blackman, 1995). Despite this alarming increased suicide rate, depression in this age group is greatly under diagnosed and can lead to serious difficulties in school, work, and personal adjustment, which may continue into adulthood. How prevalent are mood disorders and when should an adolescent with changes in mood be considered clinically depressed? Brown (1996), has said the reason why depression is often overlooked in adolescents is because it is a time of emotional turmoil, mood swings, gloomy thoughts, and heightened sensitivity. It is time of rebellion and experimentation. Blackman (1996), observed that the “challenge is to identify depressive symptomatology which may be superimposed on the backdrop of a more transient, but expected developmental storm.”
Therefore, the adolescent’s first line of defense is his or hers parents. It is up to those individuals who interact with the adolescent on a daily basis (parents, teachers, etc.) to be sensitive to the changes in the adolescent. Unlike adult depression, symptoms of youth depression are often masked. Instead of expressing sadness, teenagers may express boredom and irritability, or may choose to engage in risky behaviors (Oster & Montgomery, 1996). Key indicators of adolescent depression include a drastic change in eating and sleeping patterns, significant loss of interest in previous activity interests, constant boredom, disruptive behavior, peer problems, increased irritability and aggression (Brown, 1996).
What causes a teen to become depressed? For many teens, symptoms of depression are directly related to low self-esteem stemming from increased emphasis on peer popularity. For other teens, depression arises from poor family relations, which could include decreased family support and perceived rejection by parents. Oster and Montgomery (1996), stated that “when parents are struggling over marital or career problems, or are ill themselves, teens may feel the tension and try to distract their parents.” This distraction could include increased disruptive behavior, self-inflicted isolation and even verbal threats of suicide. Many times parent’s are so wrapped up with their own conflicts and busy lives that that fail to see the changes in their teens, or they simply refuse to admit their teen has a problem. In today’s society the family unit can be quite different from the stereo typical one...