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Tuesday, 13 November 2012 13:03

Youth Depression and Suicide

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Not only adults become depressed. Children and teenagers also may have depression, as well. The good news is that depression is a treatable illness. Depression is defined as an illness when the feelings of depression persist and interfere with a child or adolescent's ability to function.

About 5 percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at any given point in time. Children under stress, who experience loss, or who have attentional, learning, conduct, or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression. Depression also tends to run in families.

The behavior of depressed children and teenagers may differ from the behavior of depressed adults. Child and adolescent psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of signs of depression in their youngsters.

If one or more of these signs of depression persist, parents should seek help:

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
  • Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
  • Hopelessness
  • Persistent boredom; low energy
  • Social isolation; poor communication
  • Low self esteem and guilt
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
  • Poor concentration
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self destructive behavior

A child who used to play often with friends may now spend most of the time alone and without interests. Things that were once fun now bring little joy to the depressed child. Children and adolescents who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide. Depressed children and adolescents are at increased risk for committing suicide. Depressed adolescents may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way of trying to feel better.

Children and adolescents who cause trouble at home or at school may also be suffering from depression. Because the youngster may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression. When asked directly, these children can sometimes state they are unhappy or sad.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for depressed children. Depression is a real illness that requires professional help. Comprehensive treatment often includes both individual and family therapy. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) are forms of individual therapy shown to be effective in treating depression. Treatment may also include the use of antidepressant medication. For help, parents should ask their physician to refer them to a qualified mental health professional, who can diagnose and treat depression in children and teenagers.

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This information was obtained from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAPAACAP) website.

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Warning Signs

Warning signs may include but are not limited to:
Withdrawing from family and friends
Having difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly
Sleeping too much or too little
Feeling tired most of the time
Gaining or losing a significant amount of weight
Talking about feeling hopeless or guilty
Talking about suicide or death
Self-destructive behaviour like drinking too much or abusing drugs
Losing interest in favourite things or activities
Giving away prized possessions
Mood swings
IMPORTANT
If a friend mentions suicide, take it seriously. If they have expressed an immediate plan, or have access to prescription medication or other potentially deadly means, do not leave them alone. Get help immediately.

Helplines

The Samaritans116 123
Pieta House1800 247 247
Aware1890 30 33 02
ISPCC Childline1800 66 66 66
Teen-Line Ireland1800 83 36 34

Contact Us

Youth Suicide Prevention Ireland (RCN20070670)
59 High Street
Killarney
Co Kerry V93 N977
Tel 021 - 242 7173
Email admin@yspi.eu