Lunch was nearly over for 16 year old Czarina Kelly, and the waitress was walking around the table signaling discretely as possible that the restaurant was preparing things for the evening meals. For Czarina the day seemed a very long one. Though it was just going on three o’clock, she was very tired. Tired of the restaurant, tired of the day, tired of the people she was with and tired of pretending that everything was just fine. Czarina felt as if her head was about to explode even though it was a low 70’s spring day in downtown Oklahoma City.
“Are you okay, Czarina?” said her best friend’s mother from across the table.
With an echo of a woman’s voice reverberating seemingly throughout her head, suddenly, tears cascaded down the teen’s face without a sound. Czarina felt so embarrassed that she wanted to get up from her restaurant chair and run outside but was powerless to do so.
“You’re not well, Czarina are you? I’m going to call your parents. You should probably see a doctor,” the mother responded.
“I am Mrs. Taylor,” said a now trembling Czarina. “But she is out of the country attending a professional conference in Sweden.” Czarina depressive state had been progressing for nearly a week. She did everything possible to hide its development from her family and friends but at the moment its manifestation could no longer be covered up.
“I’ve talked to your mother, Czarina. She said it would be okay to talk to another specialist to help if you went along with it.”
“Okay,’ said a now tearful teen.
Mrs. Taylor disappeared for a moment into the woman’s restroom for a little less than five minutes. “Let’s go, Czarina,” she said on her return. “My friend who is very understanding will call you at your home in about an hour. She’s very good and I think you’ll like her.
By the time Czarina arrived home, the specialist’s call met with her to defuse a possible serious situation. With therapeutic help Czarina was able to begin her walk toward the life, a newer and better understanding of herself and her problem. The practitioner taught Czarina that day what would be methods for managing instances of depression.
Clinical depression is defined as a chemical imbalance in the brain. A study conducted in 2000 from the United States Surgeon General’s office found that about 1 teen in 8 may have depression at any given time in the United States. This study also revealed that roughly 20% of teens have emotional problems and 33% attending psychiatric clinics are suffering from depression.
Depression is so common that it is called the “Common Cold” of mental health because just about everyone becomes depressed at some time within a year. Just about anything a person deems important to her or him can cause depression---loss of a job, bad grades, breakup between a girlfriend-boyfriend; a long and complicated illness or death of a loved one. Depression called by such events is referred to as situational depression. Situational depression become a serious medical problem when it last for a long time.
Parents, family, friends and church youth leader/ministers can help determine if their teen friend is suffering from situational or clinical depression by making the following observations. Is there present
• complaints of pains, including headaches, stomachaches, low back pain, or fatigue
• difficulty concentrating
• difficulty making decisions
• excessive or inappropriate guilt
• irresponsible behavior -- for example, forgetting obligations, being late for classes, skipping school
• loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain
• memory loss
• preoccupation with death and dying
• rebellious behavior
• sadness, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness
• staying awake at night and sleeping during the day
• sudden drop in grades
• use of alcohol or drugs and promiscuous sexual activity
• withdrawal from friends
In too many instances, parents, friends and others do not take depression seriously. This can be a dangerous mistake leading to a tragedy that might have been prevented.
In a recent report from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, thousands of American teens commit suicide each year. In 2001, it is reported that teen suicide is the second leading cause of death among persons from 12 through 19 years of age. Unfortunately, teens are under a great deal of pressure from their world and from the adult world. Teens are pressed to think a particular way, listen to the right music, dress right, be slim, be in the right group, experiment with alcohol, drug and early sexual expression. Adults pressure teens to do well in school, be popular, grow up too soon, let them date members of the opposite gender too soon, as well as bring their problems to teens already under a great deal of pressures.
Before parents, family or friends immediately jump to the conclusion that their teen is depressed after going through the above check list, it is advised that a visit to the family’s doctor or pediatrician for a physical check up. In some instances, what may thought to be depression could be substance abuse and use. The bottom line towards dealing with the growing problems of depression among teens and in more and more instances pre-teens as young as 5 years, verbal interaction (this is wherein there is meaningful verbal exchange between both teen and parent) and meaningful social involvement in the lives of young people. Involvement here means active not passive parenting. That is, imbuing your young person with a sense of right and wrong, family activities, family discussions, awareness of friends, where your teen goes, rules and the like. Involved parents are less likely to suffer the tragedy and the results of a clinically depressed teen if they are honest and involved in the personal, social and spiritual lives of their young person.
Adolescent Depression Scale
Directions: If five or more questions are answered “yes”, professional help should be sought.
1. Changes in: a) habits b) mood c) friends d) school?
2. Sad, blue, negative, emotional or sensitive?
3. Irritable, short fuse, grouchy, aggressive or sulky?
4. Anxious, restless?
5. Tired, not feeling like doing things?
6. Can’t concentrate or think straight?
7. Feeling guilty, not worth much, unloved or withdrawn?
8. Can’t sleep well, sleeps too much?
9. Eats more or less? Weight loss or gain?
10. Delinquent, truant, leaving home, school problems?
11. Sick, aches, pains such as headaches or stomach pains?
12. Thinking sad thoughts? How much?
13. Thinking about death? All of the time?
14. Doing alcohol or drugs?
15. Thinking of suicide? Has a plan? Has the tools?
16. Lives in a household with domestic violence?
The National Mental Health Association: www.depressionscreening.org
The United States Office of the Surgeon General: www.surgeongeneral.gov
Telephone: (202) 512-1800.