Teen Depression: What you can do to spot the signs and how to get help
February 15, 2018 | By Rodney Dunigan
Teen depression is a hidden mental health crisis, one most parents probably never even consider. According to the CDC, one-in-five kids have been diagnosed with some form of a mental or emotional disorder.
ABC 6/FOX 28 spoke with medical professionals about the warning signs parents need to be looking out for. In some instances, experts say those clues could be a lifesaver.
Teyah McKenzie knows the pain all too well: the loneliness, the feelings of deep sadness and emptiness inside.
“I’d say it definitely started in middle school for sure. I’d say like toward 6th grade, going into 7th grade. Like mentally within myself, I was going through a lot,” said McKenzie.
McKenzie said that for years she dealt with depression and thoughts of taking her own life.
“It was like a veil would settle over me and I’d be like sad for days. Sometimes, I would get really down and I would sit and like actually plan out how I could complete suicide and things like that.. I even tried once when I was younger, tried to take a whole bunch of pills and I threw them up,” said McKenzie.
That suicide attempt was in 8th grade.
“After I was sitting there after I had taken them, I was like, what if my mom finds me like this?” McKenzie said.
McKinzie is certainly not alone. In fact, she had a friend who committed suicide and another who tried.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. The numbers are staggering, nationwide around 15 million young people struggling with mental illness.
Thomas Hecker, the clinical director at Pomegranate Health Systems said that it’s an issue he sees first hand every day.
“I think there’s a lot of stressors in school and in the social scene that we may have forgot about.. As we became more confident, healthy, adult individuals we forgot how influenced we were by the things that were happening to us as we were moving through adolescence,” said Hecker.
Hecker said they focus on a comprehensive approach to assisting kids: residential and outpatient treatment, as well as addressing various mental disorders. Hecker added that the key for parents is communication. Making sure they start a dialog with their teens.
“Your kid might not always want to talk when you’re ready to talk, but just letting it be known that you are available to communicate and you’ll do that in a accepting non-judgmental way,” said Hecker.
Teenage years can be some of the most difficult. Medical experts point to the increased oppurtunity to develop anxiety and depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about half of the cases of mental illness begin at the age of 14.
Psychiatrist Dr. Megan Schabbing with OhioHealth-Riverside pointed to the increased use of social media as a trigger for teen depression.
A few things for parents to make note of from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America are the pressures to fit in. Experts say technology magnifies a teens need to be accepted by peers. With decreased social skills, because teens often rely of social media to connect, they’re isolating themselves and preventing themselves from learning critical social skills. Also, they’re opening themselves up to cyberbullying. Without much effort at all, teens can reveal each other’s secrets or possibly spread false information. Dr. Schabbing said that for kids it can be simply overwhelming.
“You have to be aware of what your teen’s doing, in terms of social media and online. It’s just one more huge layer to the pressures that teens are faced with,” said Dr. Schabbing.
So, how does a parent know when to seek professional help? If your child has prolonged periods of depression — weeks even months; serious changes in mood or behavior at home or school; and any talk of suicide. Experts say that is a sure sign to get help right way.
“I have a new journal that I just got and I’ve been writing like every single day. How I felt that whole entire day. Sometimes I’ll go back and read them, like the way I felt and through the different days, you can see how I felt different days. It’s like seeing that if I got through all of that, I can continue to get through the rest of my life,” said McKenzie.
McKenzie now uses her experiences to help others. Through the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Franklin County, she visits different schools in the area. She teaches kids the signs of depression and how to address the problem.
“Everybody has ups and downs and I’ve got to continuously remind myself that,” said McKenzie.
She is hopeful that her work will prevent another young person from going through the mental fight she battled for years.
“It’s helping me be able to learn to talk about my emotions and how I feel, because having to talk about that over and over again to different schools and different kids, it’s making me more accepting of what happened as a whole,” said McKenzie.
Her words, knowledge and encouragement she believes could possibly be enough to save a teen’s life.
Health experts also said that it’s also important for a teen to speak out if they believe a friend is struggling with depression.
Classmates, teammates and even siblings can be the first line of defense in helping a teen under mental stress.
For additional signs, parents need to look out for and to find resources to help people dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide click these links:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness – Franklin County
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Children’s Mental Health
- Sequel Pomegranate Health Systems – Acute Hospital and Center for Psychiatry
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America