What are the warning signs for depression in my adolescent?
The depressed adolescent is different from the depressed adult in some ways. As noted by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, you should look for the following warning signs in your daughter:
• Frequent sadness, tearfulness, and crying
• Decreased interest in previously favorite activities
• A sense of hopelessness
• Persistent boredom and low energy
• Social isolation and poor communication
• Low self-esteem and a misplaced sense of guilt
• Extreme sensitivity to rejection and failure
• Difficulty with relationships
• Frequent vague physical ailments, such as headaches and stomachaches
• Frequent absences from school or unexplained poor academic performance
• Poor concentration
• Major changes in eating or sleeping patterns
• Talk of, or efforts to, run away
• Unusual acts of misbehavior
• Comments about suicide, death, or self-destructive behavior
Because early diagnosis and treatment is essential, you should seek help for your daughter immediately if you suspect she has depression. Treatment of this disease can often be quite effective.
It isn't always easy to communicate with your teen. Sometimes it seems that you've lost your connection. How do you keep the lines of communication open even when your daughter is experiencing the rollercoaster that is adolescence? The answer may be quite simple.
I suggest an after-supper stroll. . .just the two of you. You may be pleasantly surprised that after the first few nights, you and she find that words, which somehow wouldn't come while sitting face to face, flow while on a walk. Sharing thoughts and feelings will keep you in tune with your daughter and solidify the fact that she can always come to you with her problems.
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among youth from 15 to 24 years of age.
What should I know about the risks of suicide in adolescent girls?
Suicide is undoubtedly every parent's worst nightmare. Recently the CDC issued a report that noted suicide is the third-leading cause of death among youth from 15 to 24 years of age, and the fourth-leading cause of death among children from 10 to 14 years of age. In these age groups, the most common methods of suicide consist of firearms, hanging/suffocation, and poisoning.
Although there had been declining rates previously, the incidence of suicide from 2003 to 2004 increased for females from 10 to 14 years of age, and from 15 to 19 years of age. (However, males still account for about three-fourths of the adolescent and young adult suicides.)
To put this in hard numbers, in 2004 almost 450 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 committed suicide.
Recently there have been reports of unintentional asphyxia fatalities resulting from adolescents playing the "choking game." This "game" consists of a person intentionally restricting the supply of oxygen to the brain of herself or someone else in order to induce a brief sense of euphoria. Some of these tragic, unintentional fatalities may have been incorrectly listed as suicides.
Other speculation about the rise in the number of adolescent suicides involves the increased pressure of modern life on our young people, stiffer competition to make good grades, more violence in the media, and a lack of parental interest. Some young people reported that when they tried to tell their parents about their feelings of unhappiness or failure, the parents didn't take them seriously. Similarly, those who work with at-risk youth say that teens often make direct statements regarding their intent to end their lives, or indirect comments about how they would be better off dead, but they're ignored.
Please, please do not let a cry for help from your daughter go unheeded. Instead, be vigilant for the following warning signs as cited by the New York University Child Study Center:
• A change in eating and sleeping habits
• A marked personality change, such as exhibiting angry actions or rebellious behavior, or withdrawing from friends and regular activities
• Involvement in drugs or alcohol or other risky behaviors such as reckless driving
• An overreaction to a humiliating experience
• Difficulty in concentrating and a decline in the quality of school work
• Persistent boredom and lethargy
• Unusual neglect of her personal appearance
• Complaints about physical symptoms such as headaches and fatigue
• A pattern of giving away or throwing away possessions
• Intolerance of praise or rewards
• Preoccupation with death in writings, songs, or poems
• An increase in comments such as "I can't take it anymore," or "Nobody cares about me, I wish I were dead"
If you have any reason to believe that your daughter is having suicidal thoughts, you should contact a mental health professional immediately. In making your determination, take any comments she may make about self-hate, suicide, or death very seriously. If her statements seem indirect, ambiguous, or unclear, ask her about them. Don't be afraid to say the word "suicide." It won't put improper thoughts in her head, and it may reassure her that you've heard her cries for help.
If your daughter is depressed or has suicidal thoughts, don't try to convince her that she shouldn't feel bad, get angry about the situation, or tell her that she should "just snap out of it." It won't help, and it could in fact make things worse by making her feel even more frustrated and guilty about the fact that she feels the way she does. Instead, reassure her that you love her and that you are willing to work with her to address her problem. Then tell her that you're contacting someone who is skilled in helping young people wrestle with this problem, and do so.