Depression, Suicide and Youth

girl    Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth 15 to 24? And that 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness? For teenagers, growing up is tough. They face strong feeling of stress, confusion, self-doubt and pressures to succeed. The transition from childhood to adulthood is a rough road in the best of circumstances. When there is added pressure to succeed in school or sports, a divorce, a changes of schools, conflict between peer pressure and parents, the pressure can easily overwhelm a teenager.

As a parent or friend of a teenager it is important that you know and recognize the signs of depression and know what to do. It is normal to feel sad or anxious from time to time. Failing a school test, losing the big football game, extra homework, hormonal changes can all can make you feel down or depressed. However, feeling very sad or withdrawn for two or more weeks, is a sign of more serious problems. Additional signs of serious depression include severe mood swings, out of control risk taking behavior, use of drugs or alcohol, talking about harming oneself, drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping patterns. Take seriously any talk of a person taking their life or wishing they were dead. The threat of suicide is a serious matter.

If you are a parent and have concerns about your child, it is important that you talk to them and listen to what they have to say without judging. Contact the school counselor to get additional information about school progress and activities. Contact the parents of their friends. In short get all the information you can. If in doubt, contact your family doctor and get a referral for a mental health specialist. If your child doesn’t want to talk to you, suggest they call the crisis hot line. 1(800) 273-8255.

As the friend of a depressed teenager, there is a lot that you can do. First, show your concern. Ask the friend, “Are you Okay? You don’t look happy. Is there something I can do?” Be a good listener. Get others involved. Talk to the school counselor or another authority figure that the friend would trust. You can offer support, “I’m here if you need me.” Check in with them regularly. Avoid such phrases as “It can’t be that bad”, “Pull yourself together”, “Don’t worry, your problems will go away” To the depressed person, it is that bad and if they could pull themselves together they would.

  If attempted suicide seems eminent, call 911. DO NOT leave the individual alone. Stay with them until help arrives.

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By Roger Green

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