Thursday, May 5, 2011

Depressed Teens Rarely Ask for Help

I can attest to the truth in this study from personal experience. Hell, I didn't even recognize that I was depressed - I just knew that I wanted to be numb (and sometimes I wanted to not be alive, which is different in quality from wanting to kill myself). So I used drugs and alcohol - which this study found to be quite common.
Young teens who experienced such depression were far more likely to have abused prescription drugs in the past month than those who were not depressed (19.2% vs. 6.6%), to smoke cigarettes daily (3.6% vs. 1.9%), and to report heavy alcohol use in the preceding month (4.2% vs. 1.9%).
Here are some bullet points from the study (2009 data):
  • An estimated 2 million adolescents, or 8.1 percent of the population aged 12 to 17, had major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year
  • Rates of past year MDE increased between the ages of 12 and 15 (from 3.6 to 10.4 percent), and females aged 12 to 17 were over twice as likely as their male counterparts to have had past year MDE (11.7 vs. 4.7 percent)
  • Adolescents who had past year MDE were 3 times as likely as those without past year MDE to have had a substance use disorder in the past year (18.9 vs. 6.0 percent)
  • About one third (34.7 percent) of adolescents who had MDE in the past year received treatment for depression in the past year
As is often the case, females are more likely to be depressed and even to self-harm, but males are more likely to succeed in suicide attempts.
Teen girls attempt suicide far more often than guys (about nine times more), but guys are about four times more likely to succeed.
Seems they needed a study to discover that teenagers don't know how to talk about depression. From

Many Depressed Teens Never Ask for Help

May 5th, 2011

A News Headline

A new article reveals that most teens that struggle with depression do not receive treatment. Each year, almost 2 million teens report having experienced an episode of major depression. However, only 30 percent of them receive treatment for the symptoms of anxiety, sadness, guilt and irritability. The findings were revealed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in an effort to raise awareness at the severity of mental health issues in children. The study indicated that nearly 15% of teens had considered suicide in the previous twelve months, and the findings hope to help discover which children are at greater risk in order to implement the proper interventions and therapies to prevent injuries and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 4,400 American adolescents and young adults commit suicide annually, and another 150,000 receive treatment for self-injuries. The Center confirms that the majority of children who take their own lives had a diagnosable and treatable mental health condition and often exhibited symptoms in the months leading up to their suicide. The study also revealed that children who reported symptoms of depression were more likely to engage in addictive and abusive behaviors involving drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. The report targets these children specifically in order so that professionals “can turn a life around and reduce the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on America’s communities,” said Pamela S. Hyde, an administrator for the agency.

“Teen Screen” was created by doctors at Columbia University in an effort to identify children at risk for mental health issues. It is available throughout the country and is popular with physicians and in schools. Deputy executive director of Teen Screen Leslie McGuire said, “We know the earlier we identify these conditions, the prognosis for an adolescent is so much better. But we have to find them first.”

Here is some more info on teen suicide from

Some warning signs of suicide are:
  • depression
  • anger or hostility
  • inability to feel pleasure
  • feeling hopeless
  • isolation or withdrawal
  • insomnia
  • sleeping too much
  • loss of appetite
  • preoccupation with death
  • giving things away that were once valued
  • ending significant relationships or commitments (breaking up)
  • sudden uplift in mood after depression
  • sudden change in behavior or disruptive behavior
  • promiscuity (being very sexually active)
  • severe outbursts of temper
  • excessive substance use
  • absence from school or work
  • inability to carry out normal tasks of daily life
  • inability to laugh
Risk Factors For Teenage Suicide:
Previous Attempts--Teens who attempt suicide remain vulnerable for several years, especially for the first 3 months following an attempt. These people may become very clever about hiding their true feelings. Keep in contact with them.

Personal Failure--High standards (the teen's or the parents') that are not met, even after only one setback, may set off a downward spiral ending in suicide.

Recent Loss--Death of close friends or family, divorce, or breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend may leave a teenager so lost and alone that suicide seems the only option.

Substance Abuse--Some teens abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate overwhelming depression. A combination of depression, substance abuse and lowered impulse control can end in a suicide attempt. This is often a fatal combination.

Family Handguns--A gun in the house may make it easy for a troubled teen to commit suicide; children of law-enforcement officers have a much higher rate of suicide because of the accessibility of guns. If you think your son or friend is in danger of harming himself, please have someone remove that gun from the home!

Family Violence--Violence in the home teaches youths that the way to resolve conflict is through violence.

Lack of Communication--The inability to discuss angry or uncomfortable feelings within the family can lead to suicide. Anger turned inward often leads to depression.

Remember, if someone you know says, "I want to kill myself" or "I'm going to commit suicide," take the statements seriously and immediately seek the help of a trusted adult, such as a teacher, nurse, parent or counselor.

Experts feel it’s OK to ask a depressed teen if she is thinking about suicide. Asking this question provides assurance that somebody cares, and might give the young person the opportunity to talk about her problems. Also, take the time to learn more about depression. You might just save a life. The death of a young person is always a tragedy.
Not only is it okay to ask them about it, but it's the best thing to do. But do it with COMPASSION and understanding, not with criticism, overwhelming anxiety, or condemnation. Be open to hearing about their pain - ask them what hurts, and why. LISTEN.

Suicide & Crisis Hotline at (800) 999-9999.
Suicide National Hotline in the U.S. is (800) 273-8255

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Constance said...

As I sit here reading this with our two teenage sons, we all wish that more teens knew about Alateen, and the open, friendly support that is available to teens.

Some teens have climbed out of their bedroom windows to actually sneak out to meetings. They gradually found enough support from the community to grow, find other options and heal.

And, kids in any kind of situation, can benefit from the sharing with other teens.

I feel that teens suffer so much, and I have so much compassion. I have so much to say, it is hard to put it all in words.

But we have watched Alateen work. If more kids only knew of this valuable resource. More communities where AA and Alanon are strong are also starting Alateen meetings.

WH said...

Thanks Constance - that is a great resource for kids in pain!