Adolescent Depression and Suicide

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Only in the past two decades, have depression and suicide been taken seriously. Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts. Depression affects the way a person eats and sleeps, feels about themselves, and the way they think of the things around them. It comes as no surprise to discover that adolescent depression is strongly linked to teen suicide. Adolescent suicide is now responsible for more deaths in youths aged 15 to 19 than cardiovascular disease or cancer (Blackman, 1995). Teen suicide has more than tripled since the 1960's (Santrock, 2003). Despite this alarming increased suicide rate, depression in this age group is largely under-diagnosed and can lead to serious difficulties in school, work, and personal adjustment, which may continue into adulthood. How prevalent are mood disorders and when should an adolescent with changes in mood be considered clinically depressed? Brown (1996), has thought the reason why depression is often overlooked in adolescents is that it is a time of emotional turmoil, mood swings, gloomy thoughts, and heightened sensitivity. Adolescence is often a time of rebellion and experimentation. Blackman (1996), observed that the "challenge is to identify depressive symptomatology which may be superimposed on the backdrop of a more transient, but expected developmental storm." (p. 52) An adolescent's first line of defense is his or hers parents. Peers can be an essential part of detecting changes and differences in youth. Most of a teens waking hours are spent at school or with friends. It is up to those individuals who interact with the adolescent on a daily basis (parents, teachers, peers) to be sensitive to the changes in the adolescent. Unlike adult depression, symptoms of youth depression are often masked. Instead of expressing sadness, teenagers may express boredom and irritability, or may choose to engage in risky behaviors (Oster, 1996). The most common form of depression for females are drastic changes in eating patterns. Key indicators of adolescent depression include a drastic change in eating and sleeping patterns, significant loss of interest in previous activity interests, constant boredom, disruptive behavior, peer problems, increased irritability and aggression (Brown, 1996). Often times a teen shows multiple efforts to gain attention towards their depression by attempting suicide. These efforts should be taken very seriously even if there was no physical injury because of the attempt. In high school, a boy I will call John had attempted suicide several times and showed many signs of depression throughout high school. Because of the lack of treatment, the depression continued into adulthood. John committed suicide during his college years. Through the early detection and treatment method John could have been helped and his life would have been spared. What causes a teen to become depressed? For many teens, symptoms of depression are directly related to low self-esteem stemming from increased emphasis on peer popularity. For other teens, depression arises from poor family relations, which could include decreased family support and what they believe to be rejection from their parents (Lewis, 1996). Oster and Montgomery (1996) stated "when parents are struggling over marital or career problems, or are ill themselves, teens may feel the tension and try to distract their parents" (p 2). This distraction includes increased disruptive behavior, self-inflicted isolation and even verbal threats of suicide. Many times parents wrapped up with their own conflicts and busy lives fail to see the changes in their teens, or they simply refuse to admit their teen has a problem. In today's society, the family unit can be quite different from the stereotypical one of the 1950's where the father went to work and the mom was the homemaker. Today, with single parent families and families where both parents may be working full...
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