Depression, a mental illness categorized as a mood disorder that can affect thinking and behaviour. The effects of depression can show up as a gamut of seemingly "uncontrollable" feelings and as physical illness.
The onset of depression is generally agreed to be most often between the ages of 15 to 30 although we know it affects everyone from small children to elderly adults. Suicide ideation is a frightening experience for parents of teens, and can sometimes be the first exposure they have to their child's struggle with depression.
The changes that adolescents experience in their feelings, thoughts, behaviours and physical bodies are generally more dynamic than during other life stages. While there are many hypotheses about the 'cause' of depression (eg., family background of depression, drug and alcohol use, physical illnesses, the social 'scene' of today with its doomsday fears and lack of a hopeful future, lack of social supports, etc.) there is no solid cause, per se.
Kevin Breel is a young stand-up comic who very eloquently describes his teenage experiences with depression in the following Ted Talk. He describes how he showed up in high school as a high-achieving student on the honour roll, a successful young creative, and a captain of sports. And yet he struggled, invisibly, with daily, intense bouts of depression. He suggests that the stigma of depression is what prevents most young people from disclosing their challenges, and from getting the help they need. What do you think about what he has to say? (Please comment below:)
Some Tips For Dealing With Teen Depression:*
- If you are a depressed young person, know that depression is treatable! You do not have to suffer in silence, as Kevin states in the video. If you don't feel that you can speak to your parents, look for another adult who is trained to help. A teacher you respect, your doctor, a relative who cares about you, or even a peer who is trained as a part of a Peer Counsellor program could help you find the help you need, or speak to your parents.
- Parents, if you do not seem to be able to have "the conversation" with your youngster, approach their teacher to express concern and see if they have any feedback and recommendations for going forward with support. It is often helpful for you and your child to see a trained family counsellor together for at least a couple of sessions.
- Parents, get help for yourself during this very stressful time. See a counselor for your own concerns. Sometimes couples' counseling is a supportive way to deal with the situation.
- If drugs or other addictions are confounding issues, find help to overcome these problems.
- *See this page from Canadian Mental Health for more information about counseling and support