People more commonly associate depression with adults rather than with the younger generation. Recent studies, however, show alarming statistics on teenage suicide as a result of depression: Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for all persons regardless of age, sex or race; the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24; and the fourth leading cause of death for persons between the ages of 10 and 14. Depression now occurs in about 5% of adolescents at any given point in time and often without parents even knowing about it. According to a recent survey of high school students, teens (60%) often think about killing themselves and some (9%) say they have made an attempt at least once. In the past three decades, teen suicide worldwide has risen up to 300%.
What is teenage depression like and when should parents be concerned?
While it is normal for everyone, not just teenagers, to feel the ‘blues’ occasionally, depression becomes an illness when the feelings of dejection, hopelessness, and despair persist and interfere with a person’s ability to function. Depression is often accompanied by feelings of helplessness, being overwhelmed by circumstances, withdrawal and isolation. People suffering from depression are often prone to lethargy, overeating or loss of appetite, worry, moodiness, withdrawal from family and friends, and lapse into inactivity.
What causes teenage depression?
Depression can be caused by any single or combination of biological, psychological and social factors.
Biological factors that play a role in depression include infections, endocrinal problems, hormonal imbalances, hypoglycemia, exposure to toxic substances, improper diet, anemia, and even certain medications. Psychological causes involve elements that predispose people to become depressed as a result of their unhealthy self-esteem and negative attitude towards others, the world around them, and the future. Pressures in life are also often at the root of depression problems, among them failure, frustration, and experiences of loss (death of a loved one, divorce, relocation, break-up with steady girl/boyfriend, etc.).
How can I deal with depression?
Aside from seeking professional/medical help, there are a number of simple but effective things that could relieve your persistent “blues”:
Pray consistently to God. If you must have a really good cry, cry to God—He listens and cares. He promises to deal with your problems if you bring them to Him. Reading the Bible will be a great help—not only does it provide solid comfort but also practical wisdom for your issues. (1Pe 5:7; Php 4:6,7; Isa 41:10; Je 29:11-13; Heb 4:15,16)
Don’t keep it to yourself. Telling someone you trust or respect about the problem is usually helpful. Reach out to others—studies show depressed people tend to feel less sorry for themselves when they comfort others who suffer from grief and tragedy. (Pr 12:25; 17:17)
Steer clear from idleness—an idle mind is fertile ground for depressing thoughts. Being busy and active are good antidotes to gloominess and divert one from entertaining negative thinking.
Win the battle of the mind. If your depression stems from seeking others’ approval for your happiness, consider that it is not healthy to always leave it up to them to measure your sense of worth. If the problem lies in sin or guilt, remember that God’s forgiveness is always readily available to those who sincerely ask for it; but do not forget to do what it takes to get your life right with God . If the source of depression is failure, examine your goals and set realistic ones, asking God to help you achieve them. Accept the fact that disappointments are a part of life. Choose to ‘get over it’ rather than feeling stranded in hopelessness and uselessness. Surround yourself with positive things and positive people. (Isa 1:18; Pr 28:13; Ps 103:8-14; Php 4:8-9; 1Jn 1:9)
Eat sensibly and get enough sleep.
Exercise to perk up your mood. It increases the neurotransmitter serotonin (happy chemicals), the levels of which are significantly low in depressed people.
Use humor. Laughter also induces the production of ‘happy chemicals’ in the body and promotes overall wellbeing.
Avoid smoking, alcohol, marijuana and sedatives generally. While these seem to make things better in the short-term, they could adversely affect your health and make depression worse. Drugs and medicines are best administered with the doctor’s guidance.