Teens and Depression
• Teenage girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression.
• Serious depression is not something that a person can just “snap out of.”
• Use of alcohol or other drugs only makes depression worse.
• For youth who are questioning their sexual identity, feelings of loneliness and rejection lead to a greater risk of depression and suicide.
• Untreated depression can lead to suicide.
• Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people 15 to 24 years of age.
• About one out of four high school students in America have seriously thought about killing themselves in the past year.
What causes depression?
• Depression sometimes runs in families.
• Depression is often triggered by a loss such as the death of a friend or family member, parents’ divorce, a move to a new community, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, failing a test, or being cut from a team.
• Circumstances such as social isolation, alcoholism in the family, poverty, family violence or ongoing conflict, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse may contribute to or cause depression.
How can you tell if your teen is depressed?
The following signs and symptoms may suggest your teen is depressed, particularly if there are notable changes from his or her normal behavior and last for more than two weeks.
• Major change in sleeping or eating patterns (sleeps or eats too much or too little)
• Frequent absences from school or poor school performance
• Unusual lack of interest in activities, friendships, or hobbies
• Trouble concentrating or making decisions
• Running away from home
• Abusing alcohol or other drugs
• Neglecting personal appearance
• Frequently complaining of a stomachache or headache
• Thinking or talking about death, suicide, or suicide attempts
• Persistent lack of energy, fatigue
• Feelings of guilt, pessimism, helplessness, or hopelessness
• Persistent sadness or irritability
• Frequent crying
• Persistent boredom or restlessness
• Loss of self-esteem
What should you do if you suspect your teen is depressed?
• Seek professional help right away. You are not expected to make a diagnosis. Only a thorough evaluation by a health professional can diagnose depression and rule out other problems. Your family doctor can often do this evaluation. Your family doctor or a school counselor may also recommend a mental health professional who works with teens.
A diagnosis of depression does not mean your teen’s life is headed in a downward spiral. Most people (80 percent to 90 percent) who suffer from clinical depression respond to treatment. Treatment for depression may include counseling, medicine, or both.
Latinas and Depression
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of approximately every six teenage Latinas has attempted suicide.
In 2005, 14.9 percent of Hispanic female youths attempted suicide, compared with 9.8 percent of black female youths and 9.3 percent of white female youths.
Dr. Luis Zayas suggests that there are many causes for this growing pattern of suicide attempts.
– Cultural conflicts between immigrant parents and American-born daughters. Zayas says mainstream culture is saying, “Be your own woman, dress the way you want and go on dates.” That clashes when you have more traditional parents, especially immigrant parents.
– Respect for parents is paramount in the Latino household. A girl’s independence, especially when it comes to boys, is secondary.
– Some Hispanic girls are raised to be passive and stay primarily in the home. While sex and pregnancy, drug use and gangs are some of the big issues that lead to rifts between parents and children, there are many less explosive concerns that create problems like skipping school or dating at an early age.
– Latino parents often expect their children to adhere to old traditions. The conflict comes when the children’s peers are doing something different.
– The problem can be complicated by a combination of the cultural stigma in regard to seeking mental health services together with the scarcity of bilingual resources
Ways to help
Su Familia: The National Hispanic Family Health Helpline: 1-866-783-2645
The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc.: (212) 206-1090
Casa Abatex Ache: (718) 585-5540
Hispanic Federation: (212) 233-8955
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-TALK (8255) or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Centro de Mi Salud (bilingual behavioral healthcare services in Dallas):