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All Teenagers Get the Blues: But When Is It Serious?

SOME THOUGHTS FOR PARENTS ON DEPRESSION and SUICIDE PREVENTION

What is depression?
Most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or an injured self-esteem.

But when feelings of intense sadness -- including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless -- last for days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may be clinical depression -- a more serious condition.

Depression is a treatable medical illness involving an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. It’s not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Just like you can’t “wish away” diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical illness, you can’t make depression go away by trying to “snap out of it.”

Episodes of depression often follow stressful events. People who have recurrent episodes of major depression are sometimes said to have "unipolar depression”, because they only experience periods of low, or depressed mood (unlike someone with bipolar disorder who goes through periods of both low and high mood). 

While depression sometimes runs in families, many people with the illness have no family history of depression. The exact causes of depression still are not clear. What we do know is that both genetics and a stressful environment, or life situation, contribute to its cause. Usually, it’s not one or the other, but a combination of both.”

Like other conditions, depression is easier to manage if it is caught and treated early.  For most people, the right treatment, consistently used, works.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Common Symptoms of Depression in Adolescents
Emotional Symptoms

Changes in Ways of Thinking

Changes in Activities and Interactions with Others

Changes in School Work and Behavior

Physical Symptoms

 

Some Other Important Things to Know About Depression

 

If you live in the central or lower Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, you can find help through the Comprehensive Directory of Mental Health Services, at:
http://www.psyc.jmu.edu/counseling/CDMHS2007finaledition.pdf

 

How Family and Friends Can Help Someone Who Is Depressed
The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. This may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to abate (several weeks), or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, it may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to the doctor. It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication. The depressed person should be encouraged to obey the doctor’s orders about the use of alcoholic products while on medication.

The second most important thing is to offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Report them to the depressed person’s therapist (or parent or other trusted adult). Invite the depressed person for walks, outings, to the movies, and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage participation in some activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, religious or cultural activities, but do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon. The depressed person needs diversion and company, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure.

Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness, or expect him or her “to snap out of it.” Eventually, with treatment, most people do get better. Keep that in mind, and keep reassuring the depressed person that, with time and help, he or she will feel better.

 

Preventing Suicide: What Can Parents Do?

KNOW the RISK FACTORS; situations, characteristics, behaviors that are often an indication that your teen  is struggling and in need of help. 

KNOW the WARNING SIGNS- indications that there is some risk for suicide

If You Are Concerned About Your Teenager:

Let your teen tell you of his situation and his feelings. Don’t give advice or feel obligated to find simple solutions. Don’t get into reasoning or moral arguments. Ask questions and really listen to the answers.

Most teens who consider suicide tell other people about their thoughts and plans.

You don’t have to be a therapist. You are a parent who is concerned about your child’s safety. Get help from a professional.

If you are worried, say so. If your teen is telling you about thoughts of suicide, you are right to be worried.

At times everyone feels sad, hurt or hopeless. You know what that’s like. Share your feelings. Let your teen know that she is an important member of the family and that you love her. Let her know that you will help. Keep the lines of communication open.

If you see warning signs, ask directly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide” or “Are you thinking of suicide?”   And if the answer is “yes”, thank your son or daughter for their honesty and make a plan to get help.

Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Talk to another adult to get help and support and to find out what to do next. You can talk to your spouse, a friend, a school counselor, school psychologist or school social worker, a minister, a community mental health agency, a private counselor, or a family doctor. Get help for yourself and for him.

 

SOME IMPORTANT DON’TS:

 

Other Resources for Parents

Directory of Mental Health Services in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia:
http://www.psyc.jmu.edu/counseling/CDMHS2007finaledition.pdf

 

 

Virginia ASIST Trainings
Click here to register

Mental Illness: What a Difference a Friend Makes.

State and National Resources

Training Options: Educational Resources

What’s Happening in Virginia?  Visit The Virginia Suicide Prevention Coalition Site

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