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