The World Health Organization (WHO) recently estimated that 1 in 4 people worldwide will need mental health care sometime during their lives.
A specific concern is the rising number of teen suicides due to untreated depression. According to experts, only 1 in 5 depressed teens receives help for their condition. Many parents and teachers may assume that moodiness in teens is just part of puberty – but it could actually be a sign of depression and should be taken seriously.
What are the Symptoms of Teen Depression?
While many of the symptoms of depression in teens are similar to adult depression, there are some specific symptoms that differ. Here are the four major differences:
- Irritability: Depressed teens are more likely to be irritable than sad. If they are depressed, they may seem easily frustrated, grumpy, or even hostile.
- Aches and Pains: Although many teens experience “growing pains,” frequent pains such as headaches or stomachaches may also be a sign of depression. If you see a physician for the problem and he or she cannot provide a medical explanation, this may be a sign that your teen is depressed.
- Sensitivity to Criticism: Many depressed teens are troubled by feelings of worthlessness. This makes them especially vulnerable to criticism, rejection, or failure.
- Selective Withdrawal: While depressed adults may isolate themselves from everyone, depressed teens are likely to maintain some of their friendships. However, it is also possible that they will start hanging out with a new friend group that engages in dangerous behavior like drinking or violence.
Additional depression symptoms common to teens and adults include feelings of sadness, worthlessness, anger, fatigue, and noticeable changes in eating, sleeping, friendship, and/or interests.
What are the Warning Signs for Suicide?
Teens considering suicide are more likely to perform actions that draw attention to themselves. They may speak about suicide or engage in reckless behavior.
Some warning signs include, but are not limited to the following:
- Saying things like “I’d be better off dead,” or “I just wish I could disappear forever.”
- Making casual comments or jokes about committing suicide.
- Romanticizing death or discussing dramatic ways to die.
- Writing stories or poems about death.
- Seeking out weapons, pills, or other means to commit suicide.
- Engaging in reckless behavior or getting frequent injuries without much care.
You should closely monitor a depressed teen in case they show any of these warning signs. Teens often exhibit such behavior as a cry for help, so the best thing you can do is talk to them about it and show that you care. If you are severely concerned that someone might commit suicide, you should call a crisis intervention hotline immediately.
Here are some crisis intervention hotlines in India that you can call:
Sumaitri (New Delhi): 011 2338 9090
Sneha (Chennai): 044 2464 0050
Lifeline (Kolkata): 033 2463 7401/7432
Samaritans (Mumbai): 022 2307 3451
SAARTHAK (Delhi): 011 2685 3846 or 2652 4061
How Can I Help a Teen with Depression?
If you suspect that a teen close to you is depressed, you should speak up immediately. Even if they aren’t experiencing depression, changes in emotion and behavior should still be a concern.
Share your concerns with your teenager and tell them that you are there for them. Encourage them to open up to you, but they might need some time before they’re ready. Offer support and listen to their problems without judging them. Once you talk things through, the next step is to visit your family physician. They will screen the teen for depression and may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in adolescents.
Treatment options may include antidepressant medications and activities such as exercising, becoming more social, and seeing a therapist. It often takes a long time to recover from depression, but you just might save a teen’s life.
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