FEATURES: Depression Affects Millions Of Teens Nationwide
By Abby Williamson – Staff Reporter
Seventeen-year-old Australian teenager “Amanda” had the same feelings for years. Her gloomy mood left her with very few friends and a family who didn’t know how to help her. People at Amanda’s high school gave her no attention as if she was invisible. Even Amanda’s boyfriend claimed she was too stressful for him and broke up with her. It wasn’t until Amanda started seeing someone at the local Child and Youth Mental Health Service Center that she discovered what was causing her despondent behavior. She was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
“I had these feelings for a long time, years in fact, but it wasn’t until May 4, 2009, that I realized how wrong something was,” Amanda said. “Unfortunately, this was the same day I wanted it all to end.”
Amanda is one of many teens around the world who suffer from depression. Depression is the most prominent issue existing among teens nowadays.
As of 2014, approximately 2.8 million adolescents in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode over the past year. This statistic represents an average 11.4% of teens aged from 12 to 17 of the U.S. population. While depression is more likely to occur with a family history, females are more likely to develop depression than males. More specifically, 17.3% of the teenagers who experienced depression in 2014 were female and 5.7% were male.
Bullying, a lack of social skills, learning disabilities, poor parenting or caregiving and the loss of a parent to death or divorce are the most common factors in teenage lives that can trigger depression. Teens who suffer from depression are likely to suffer from additional illnesses, as well. Some of these disorders are anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.
The most common changes that a teen experiences when suffering from depression are sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image. Amanda experienced this firsthand when she developed her depression.
“I was only 16 and I was confused. It felt as though there was a big wall between me and any possibility of a future or any hope,” Amanda said.
Because behavioral changes are considered to be something normal among teenagers, most teens do not even realize that they suffer from depression. Parents also unintentionally fail to give teenage depression attention since depression among teens and adults are significantly different. When troubled with depression, teens are more likely to be easily frustrated and experience angry outbursts. Additionally, more common side effects that teens are affected by and adults are not are unexplained aches and pains, extreme sensitivity to criticism, and antisocial behaviors.
When these symptoms go unnoticed and untreated, teens tend to do poorly in school, abuse substances, retain a low self-esteem, and engage in violent, reckless behavior.
“Depression in teens usually goes undiagnosed, and often leads to drug and alcohol abuse or additional behavioral disorders. Furthermore, depression is the leading cause of suicide,” Teen Depression Specialist Doctor Carol Glod said. “In a recent national survey of high school students, nearly 20% of teens thought about attempting suicide, and more than 8% made a suicide attempt.”
Like Amanda, teenager Kevin Breel suffers from depression. Breel considers having depression as living a “double life”. He seems like a happy, popular basketball player in school but is miserable in reality.
“Real depression isn’t being sad when something in your life goes wrong,” Breel said. “Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right.”
Breel believes that his depression was caused by the loss of his best friend in combination with his parents getting a divorce.
“I felt so unhappy and I couldn’t explain why or justify why to anyone. So I didn’t feel like I could talk about it,” Breel said.
The question is: how does teenage depression begin and can it be controlled?
Teenage depression is very broad issue. No teen experiences the same form of depression nor the same side effects, therefore it is difficult to trace it back to what initiated it. However, stress is the most common trigger of depression.
One of the most common branches of stress that causes depression among teens is school. Teens who experience trouble with school performance and problems when engaging with peers are more likely to develop depression than kids who succeed socially and academically. In addition, personal problems such as confusion with sexual orientation, judgemental parents, and a rough home life can each have a major effect on whether or not teens suffer from depression.
In a world where teens are pushed to “grow up” and be independent, having miserable moods isn’t a reason to reach out for help. This, of course, is a major reason why depression in teens goes unnoticed.
A common argument on why depression in teens is overlooked is that teens are uneducated on the topic. However, that is not the case. Teens are educated on depression in health classes but never seem to take it seriously.
“When it comes to teens and depression, the problem isn’t the lack of education, it’s the lack of common sense,” Jonathan Law health teacher Mr. Sweeney said.
Because of this, about 86% of the depressed teenage population are suffering from untreated symptoms. Therefore, careless teenage behavior in combination with overbearing stress leads to developing stress.
“I knew I needed help, but how? Where? Who could help me and more importantly who would want to?,” Amanda said. “I had no idea what was happening to me.”
When it comes to medicating depression, most cases can be simply treated. In fact, approximately 60-80% of depression cases can be contained through psychotherapy and medications.
“The fastest way to treat depression is with a combination of therapy and medications,” Dr. Susan Uhrich said. “It is also the best way of treating depression.”
Amanda decided to treat her depression with therapy, and not medications.
“I went to a psychologist with whom I just talked and in all honesty, I left feeling worse than I did when I arrived,” Amanda said.
It wasn’t until she had weekly sessions with the Child and Youth Mental Health Service Center where they helped her work through problems based around creative expression that she started to see a change in her depression.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Breel almost let the weight of depression take his life. Fortunately, Breel got help. He began speaking at schools to try to educate teens about depression. Breel caught the attention of TED, an organization dedicated to sharing ideas, and his story became famous.
When it comes to preventing depression, there are tons of measures both teens and parents can take. Studies show that if a child receives cognitive-behavioral therapy in a group setting, it can help prevent or delay the onset of depression. This is the case especially with a teen whose parent has a history of depression since the child at greater risk for becoming depressed.
Other than regular counseling appointments, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise are easy ways to steer from depression.
More specific ways that parents can prevent depression from affecting their teens are making sure that the child has an active social life and strong support system. Whether it’s at home, through teachers, family members, or friends, a strong sense of support and acceptance can keep a teen away from depression.
Amanda is still battling depression, but she has learned how to cope with the array of sorrow feelings and go on with her life. She puts her story out in the open with hopes that teens struggling with depression stumble upon it and find the hope to get through depression and move to a brighter future.
“There is always someone out there who knows what you are going through and there is always someone who can and wants to help you. What I never realised but I want you to realise is that you are worth it,” Amanda said.
(Some information courtesy today.com, beyondblue.org, nimh.nih.gov, healthline.com, usatoday.com, familyaware.org, webmd.com,and healthtap.com)