Yesterday I attended a 16-year old boys funeral who was a classmate of my daughter, he committed suicide. She, as well as others, were shocked by this news, saying that he seemed like a happy person and was acting normal that same day. However, he went home and took his life. Although this may seem shocking, in 2016 suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death among young adults between the ages of 15 to 24, and youth ages 10-14 (American Association of Suicidology, 2018). As a mental health professional, I was trained that there are signs before suicide, such as giving valuables away, dropping hints in conversation, isolation, etc. Although these are common signs, children and teens commonly show warning signs differently than adults.
While some suicidal individuals can appear to be okay, children and young adults who show warning signs are often overlooked. Many symptoms of depression can be mistaken for, or down-played as, normal human emotions associated with being young trying to find themselves. However, childhood depression has been on the rise for several years, but there is a lack of awareness on its prevalence and severity. Children and teens who suffer from depression may be mistaken for having anger issues, being emotional, or lazy; but data indicates that 50% of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 14. In many situations, there could be years or decades pass between the first appearance of symptoms and when a person seeks help.
Most people think that depression is the feeling of extreme sadness that can go away with the solution to a stressor in someone’s life, however, depression is a medical condition. According to Dr. Richa Bhatia, MD, depression is a serious health condition, if left untreated, there is an increased risk of future, prolonged and more severe depressive episodes. Untreated depression in childhood and adolescence can also increase the risk of suicide (Bhatia, 2018). Therefore, it's important to be vigilant, know the signs and intervene as soon as there is a concern.
Bhatia explains irritability/anger are the most common signs of depression in children and teens. In younger children, this can also accompany physical symptoms such as aches and pains, restlessness and distress during separation from parents. While these are the most common symptoms of depression in children and teens other symptoms may include:
Although these may be common emotions as a result of life’s stressors, someone with a diagnosis of depression experience symptoms for extended periods of time. As I mentioned in my previous blog, depression and anxiety disorders are comorbid, meaning that both conditions are usually present in the individual. This is likely because the prolonged symptoms of anxiety can cause depression and vice versa. Additionally, because depression is a medical condition, just like other medical conditions depression is also hereditary. So, if you have a family history of depression and anxiety, and your child or teen experiences symptoms of depression or anxiety, they are at higher risk.
Regardless of the cause, depression is a serious medical condition and if signs and risk factors are ignored, there could be devastating effects. Therefore, the best thing to do is seek help as soon as there is a concern with your child or loved one’s behavior. PLEASE DON’T PUT IT OFF! It could mean life or death!
For more information please contact us at Info@bookoflifefoundation.com or contact your local mental health provider.
-Tamera Bradford, Founder/CEO
American Association of Suicidology. (2018). Youth Suicide Fact Sheet. American Association of Suicidology.
Bhatia, R. (2018, October). Childhood Depression. Retrieved from Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website: https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/childhood-depression
Throughout my career, I've witnessed so many children and adolescents that suffer from the effects of mental illness. Mental illness in school-age children is a major problem that is misunderstood, and there is a lack of awareness on how it can impact the academic success and life of an individual. Since the No Child Left Behind Act, which has been amended to now the Every Student Succeeds Act; there has been more of a push for inclusion in the classroom, which means integrating special needs students in the general ed classroom.
Children with special needs and inclusion are generally thought of in terms of integrating students with a specific learning disability (SLD) in the general ed classroom. However, SLD’s have comorbidity with other disorders, specifically psychiatric disorders. Data from the Child Mind Institute categorize the top three most common psychiatric disorders as:
Of the three disorders, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent, affecting 31.9% of adolescents ages 13-18. There are several types of anxiety disorders. According to the Nation Institute of Mental Health, the most common are:
Understanding the comorbidity between anxiety disorders and disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can help better understand the impact on academic functioning as both disorders impact the ability to concentrate. It is also suggested that the long-term effects of ADHD can result in an anxiety disorder in adulthood. An article in Medical News Today stated that around half of adults who have ADHD also have an anxiety disorder (Leonard, 2017).
Anxiety disorders are also a risk factor for depression and mood disorders. In my experience, I've observed adolescents and young adults diagnosed with depression that also presently had or previously had a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder or ADHD. So, if your child or student shows signs of any of the disorders mentioned, there are many resources to help. Early intervention is the key to preventing the long term effects that may result in poor academic performance and severe impairment in life.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local mental health agency.
-Tamera Bradford, Founder/CEO
Child Mind Institute. (2015). Children's Mental Health Report. Child Mind Institute Inc.
Leonard, J. (2017, May 15). ADHD and anxiety: What's the connection? Retrieved from Medical News Today Web site: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315303.php
Merikangas, K. R., He, J. P., Burstein, M., Swanson, S. A., Avenevoli, S., Cui, L., … Swendsen, J. (2010). Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication--Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49(10), 980–989. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2010.05.017
National Institute of Mental Health. (2017, November). Any Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health Web site: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml
When I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, special education looked a lot different than it does today. I remember that the students that were identified as "special needs" were separated from the general education classroom. We only saw them during lunch. For most, disabilities were apparent because many had distinct physical appearances or behaviors that made them stand out. Today, special education looks a lot different. Most special education students are being integrated into the general education classroom setting. Over the years, there have been changes in policies and laws that have resulted in more students qualifying for modifications and accommodations that address their specific physical and emotional needs.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was established in 1965. It governs how early intervention, special education services, and related services are provided by state and public agencies. IDEA is a national law that makes available a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) for eligible children with disabilities. FAPE also ensures special education and related services for those children. Eligibility to receive these services, school performance must be adversely affected by the following conditions:
A student with an emotional disturbance may have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavior disorder, depressive disorder, or an anxiety disorder. Accommodations for these conditions may vary. A good portion of students have more than one diagnosis. Students that have these conditions can benefit from environmental, academic, instructional and/or sensory accommodations and modifications.
Hidden disabilities are everywhere. Can you see them? Maybe not.
For more information, contact us at email@example.com or your child’s school counselor.
-Tamera Bradford, Founder/CEO
Individual With Disabilities Education Act. (2019). About IDEA. Retrieved from Individual With Disabilities Education Act Web site: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/
Individual with Disabilities Education Act. (2017, July 11). Sec. 300.8 Child with a disability. Retrieved from Individual with Disabilities Education Act Web site: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/a/300.8