Change & Grief
Adolescents and Depression
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Adolescents and Depression
Suicide Incidence in the Adolescent
Currently, among the 15- to 19-year
olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death (following accidents).
The suicide rate has tripled over the last 30 years in this age group.
Surveys estimate that 40 % of high school students have contemplated taking
their lives at one point or another.
The numbers of people choosing
to take their own lives is growing, and it is not limited to a single age
group, racial group, or socioeconomic class.
If a young person (or anyone
you know) mentions that he or she has had thoughts of suicide, the most
important thing to do is TAKE IT SERIOUSLY! The evidence is overwhelming,
those who talk about suicide may truly be considering it, especially in
the younger age groups. Most young people who attempt
suicide talk about it first.
Seek Professional advice immediately.
Talk to a Counselor, a Teacher, a Priest or Minister, or a Physician.
The important part is to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of
depression and/or suicide and get help, or help the person exhibiting the
signs to get help!
For another perspective see the
article, "Listen to a Teenager
It May Save a Life."
Signs and Symptoms
Talk of death, suicide, or harming
Chronic panic or anxiety
Altered personality or appearance
Changes in sleeping or eating habits
Dropping grades (for those still
Giving away treasured possessions
Becoming more isolated - pulling
away from normal social activities
Talk of depression, life is not
Does a young person you know
seem trouble by any of these symptoms?
Lack of enthusiasm, energy, or motivation
Social withdrawal or isolation
Sadness or hopelessness
Confusion of difficulty with decisions
Drop in school performance
Eating or sleeping problems
Low self-esteem or guilt
Drug and/or alcohol abuse
Problems with authority
Anxiety or phobias
High Risk Times/Situations
Many young people make the decision
to commit suicide following another life disaster:
Breakup of Relationship
Fight with parents
Run-in with authority
Alcohol is found in the blood of
more than half of the teenage suicide victims.
High Risk Groups
More girls than boys become depressed.
More girls than boys attempt
suicide, but more boys than girls are successful in their attempt to kill
Certain groups of adolescents
may be more vulnerable to suicide.
Those with "classic" symptoms of
depression - sadness and hopelessness, often female.
Those who are perfectionists - setting
high performance standards for themselves to achieve. These teens are often
anxious, isolated and socially withdrawn
Those who "act out" their depression
through risk taking behaviors - drug use, alcohol use, use of firearms,
confrontations with authority.
This group is difficult to detect,
because they will frequently deny any feelings of depression.
This group is also among the highest
risk for successfully completing a suicide.
is also among the highest risk for successfully completing a suicide.
Who get depressed?
This is a complex question even
in the adult world, even more so with adolescents.
Life stressors can be a major
contributor to depression in the young people. These stressors may be significantly
different, or different factors may have more of an impact in a young person
than an older one, often because the younger person lacks the years of
experience to realize that things will get better in time:
Experiences of failure
Alienation by peers
Any kind of abuse - physical, psychological
Pressure to achieve - academically,
Unresolved grief - death of a loved
one, loss of a relationship, loss of a friend
James Jefferson, MD and John Greist MD,
Depression and Adolescents
Copyright 1996 Pfzier, Inc.
to the "Cry for Help"
If a young person mentions that
he or she has thought of suicide, the most important thing to do is TAKE
IT SERIOUSLY! Those who talk about suicide may truly be considering it!
Listen to their "Call for Help" The important part is to recognize
the warning signs and get help, or help the person exhibiting the signs
to get help!
Seek Professional advice immediately.
Talk to a Counselor, a Teacher, a Physician.
There have been several instances
when I thought friends or colleagues were in trouble where what they were
telling me sounded like a strong "Cry for Help," whether a message on an
answering machine, or a letter written out of depression and sent.
On these occasions I have made several frantic phone calls to try and find
them, make sure they were all right. I usually was not able to reach the
person specifically, but contacted someone who was also alerted and then
able to get in touch with the person. Fortunately, in each of these instances,
the outcome has been a good one. Friends asked me if I thought I was over
reacting. "Didn't I know they weren't going to really do themselves any
harm?" I will continue to "over react" rather than possibly let a friend
The stakes are too high to make
that kind of mistake. I have treated many overdose cases in the emergency
department, and intensive care unit, pumping stomachs after a drug overdose,
treating with 17 doses of Tylenol antidote, or monitoring for cardiac arrhythmias
after barbiturate overdoses. I was left wondering was their "Cry
for help" noticed. Also you never know for sure what was going through
that person's head. You never know that you might be the only person who
hears their "Cry for Help." Perhaps the compassion, knowing that someone
cares is enough to convince them that live is worth living.
that life is worth living
help create the fact.
If you are feeling like harming yourself or someone else, or are feeling
depressed, helpless or hopeless, Call 911,
your local suicide hot-line,
or Crisis Intervention line,
located in the Yellow Pages, or contact the Samaritans via e-mail at:
Call someone--a friend, or family
member, your clergy or physician. Look in the Yellow pages under Counselors,
Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists, if you feel you may need
immediate professional assistance.
If you or anyone you know seems
to be experiencing depression, consider taking one of the quizzes on the
other depression pages, Self
Assessment Quiz or Wakefield
Questionnaire and contact your health care provider, counselor, clergy
member or social worker and get the help you need.
Last updated October 5, 1999
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