Mental Health Awareness Month: Teens

The idea that a teen could be depressed, depression can result in significant impairments in theability to function, depression can lead to substance abuse and even suicide is no longer a novelidea. When I started in psychiatry over 40 years ago these ideas had not been thought thru. Infact the ability of teens or children to be depressed were questioned. This has been replaced bywell constructed studies with broad ranges of demographic statistics characterizing depression inteens. And what they have found is that teens have significant depression and the frequency ofdepression appears to be worsening.

Approximately 10% of teens between 12-17 years of age have diagnosable depressiveconditions. 3.5 million had a depressive disorder in the last year. These would not just be feelingdown or sad but experiencing extended periods of depressive moods, difficulties in sleep,decrease in the ability to function in school, lack of energy and motivation, weight loss or gain,social isolation and having thoughts of wanting to die. These symptoms are not that unusual inteens nor is depression. Up to 20% of teens will experience a depressive episode before turning20.

Female teens are twice as likely at 15 years of age to have a depressive episode than male teens. This pattern starts during teen years and persists into adulthood for females. Even though more frequent males can become depressed as well.

Those who label themselves as being LGBTQ+ have increased risks for depression. COVID has increased the frequency of depression and suicidal ideas in teens. The quarantine, loss of social interactions, loss of loved ones, sickness and the fear of sickness have made the last several years extremely difficult for teens.

Yet up to 60% of teens with depressive episodes will not receive treatment. There are many more opportunities than available 40 years ago, or for that matter 10 years ago. If you have a teen or know a teen who has shown a change in their mood over the last several weeks or month consider taking them to see a professional who could identify a depressive disorder if present and initiate treatment. Believe me both you and the teen will be thankful.