Every teenager goes through some level of sadness. It is part of the development stage and certainly partly due to fluctuating hormone levels. But for a significant number of teens, sadness is more than a passing phase – it is full-blown depression. Teenage depression affects one out of eight teens. It is a serious adolescent health concern and one which is being addressed more openly than ever before.
How serious is teenage depression? Many depressed teens wind up engaging in self-injury. In extreme cases, teen depression results in suicide. In America, there are 5,000 preventable teen suicides every year. Early diagnosis and treatment could save many young lives now being lost.
Parents Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Get Help For A Depressed Teen
Part of the problem is that parents struggle to discern between normal teen angst and depression. In other cases, parents don’t want to know that their child is depressed because they worry about the stigma of mental illness. Dr. David Satcher is the Surgeon General of the United States and he wants parents to be more prepared to get their teen the help that is available. He has said “just as things go wrong with the heart, the lungs, the kidneys and the liver in our bodies, even in children, things go wrong with the brain.” Parents who wouldn’t avoid taking their teen to the doctor for a physical ailment should not hesitate to make sure their teen gets help for an emotional ailment.
Because teens are notoriously tight-lipped about feelings with adults, cutting edge work on teen depression has turned toward computer programs. The programs are used as diagnostic tools for depression based on the supposition that teens will talk to a computer program more openly than an adult in the room.