Depression and anxiety disorders are real illnesses. They're mental health problems that need to be addressed and should not be ignored, especially now when researchers are finding that cases in teens are on the rise.
In the United States, almost 15% of teens age 13 to 17 suffer from depression and bipolar disorder, according to the 2017 Children's Mental Health Report by the Child Mind Institute. Moreover, 50% more teens demonstrated clinically diagnosable depression in 2015, compared to 2011 as shown by research from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
In the Philippines, there is little available data on the prevalence of depression and suicide among Pinoy teens, GMA News reported. Among Filipino students surveyed, 42 percent have felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more, 17.1 percent has seriously considered committing suicide, and 16.7 percent had made plans on how they would carry it out, as shown in the 2003–2004 Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) report.
Depression doesn’t just manifest itself as sadness. The condition can be difficult to spot especially in teenagers. “Unlike depressed adults, whose hallmark symptom is often a profound sadness or lack of energy in activities and [loss of] enthusiasm for the things they previously enjoyed, in older children and teenagers, depression often manifests as chronic anger, irritability and often isolating oneself, which parents of teenagers tend to dismiss as part of the teenager’s life,” Dr. Cornelio Banaag, widely known as the founding father of child and adolescent psychiatry in the Philippines, told Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Awareness of its symptoms is crucial to providing help and support. “Sudden changes in behavior or mood, isolating oneself, not contacting friends, refusing to go to school are non-specific signs of depression in teenagers. It’s not always just sadness,” added Dr. Banaag.
There is a misconception that depression can be overcome with willpower like simply “picking yourself up” can make the condition go away. Though its exact cause is unknown, several factors have been linked to the condition. According to Mayo Clinic and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, these include biological chemistry, hormones, inherited traits, early childhood trauma and learned patterns of thinking.
Depression gets better with treatment, and it starts with the teen having someone they can openly talk to about what they are going through. “Whatever else happens, you must never lose the line of connection with your children, no matter how busy you are,” said Dr. Banaag.
A strong relationship with your child will help you know if your child is simply down or if there’s an underlying mental health problem. “It can be difficult to tell the difference between ups and downs that are just part of being a teenager and teen depression,” said Mayo Clinic. “Talk with your teen. Try to determine whether he or she seems capable of managing challenging feelings, or if life seems overwhelming.”
Remember, as with any other illness, do not ignore the signs of a problem. Find ways to help your child cope by being understanding and supportive. Encourage your child to exercise as physical activity may play a role in reducing teenage depression, according to Mayo Clinic. Positive relationships with friends, or even relatives your child is fond of, can help prevent symptoms.
If you find that your child’s symptoms interfere with her life, whether at home or in school, talk to a doctor. A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, counselor, psychologist, or therapist, will be able to assess what your child is experiencing.
Find help immediately if you think your teen may attempt self-harm or suicide. Call 804-HOPE(4673), 0917-558-HOPE(4673) or 2919.