Depression in teens
Though there are evidence-based interventions that are effective for managing depression, only 41 per cent of teens with major depression receive treatment.
Experts refer to this as the “treatment gap,” and it is a significant problem.
Globally, 34 per cent of adolescents aged 10-19 years are at risk of developing clinical depression.
Compared with boys, many studies show that teenage girls are twice as likely to be depressed than boys by the age of 15 years.
Teenage hormones are responsible for teen moodiness.
The physical and emotional changes that these hormones bring may make life difficult for the young ones.
The difference between moodiness and depression, however, is that the teen will still have an interest in keeping up with schoolwork or spending time with friends during mood swings.
Hormonal fluctuations are responsible for the higher risk of depression among girls than boys.
Teenage girls can also face societal and cultural pressures that influence them differently than boys.
Factors such as body image issues, social expectations and unequal treatment can all contribute to feelings of sadness or inadequacy.
Depression presents differently in teens than it does in adults.
And this is the reason why early diagnosing can be complex, and many cases are easily missed.
Most adults who are depressed lose appetite and stop eating.
Most teens eat without much change in their appetite.
Whilst adults are unable to get out of bed due to depression, most adolescents will sleep less.
Depressed teens mostly do not appear sad or tearful but rather irritable.
Typically, studies have shown that exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as neglect, malnutrition, all forms of abuse, violence and witnessing of violence in the home or community, having a family member attempt or die by suicide are some of the events that can undermine the sense of safety, stability and bonding of teenagers.
Many other traumatic experiences such as divorce and unstable spousal relationships can also potentially place children at a risk of depression in their teen years.
Addiction to social media has recently been linked to feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem and depression among teens.
Most mental health problems in adulthood begin in the adolescent period.
It is, therefore, important to understand and support health and mental well-being earl in life.
Schools must focus on the holistic well-being of students by investing more in physical and mental health.
A lot is being done but many issues remain neglected, including the establishment of functional guidance and counselling teams (in every school) which are well resourced to support our wards.
Mental health awareness programs must be embraced unreservedly.
Untreated depression in teens can have serious consequences such as suicide.
This is why caregivers including teachers, friends, social media acquaintances and family members must all pay attention to thoughts and expressions of self-harm and suicide.
Making jokes, minimising comments, dismissing suicidal statements, silencing, shaming or punishing, and even calling out a person for crying out loud are not wise ways of handling what may be the desperate cry for help by the voice of depression.
Men and boys may be less likely to openly express their emotions or seek professional help when they need it.
This is affirmed in a society like ours that holds the perception that men/ boys should be brave and not cry.
This, unfortunately, is harmful to one’s mental health and must not be encouraged.
Reporting and seeking help for mental health issues should be as simple as seeking help for a fever or cough.
The writer is a Child Development Expert/ Fellow at Zero-to-three Academy, USA.