Depression in Adolescents
By Jennifer Stinson, MD - Dothan Pediatric Clinic
Living during the COVID pandemic, medical providers know an important aspect of general pediatric and adolescent medical care is the diagnosis and treatment of depression. It is estimated at least 10 percent of American teenagers suffer with depression, but during the isolation created by the pandemic, those numbers may be significantly higher.
Some key factors parents should watch for include a sad or irritable mood, unexplained weight changes, withdrawing from family or peer groups, changes in sleep patterns, difficulty making decisions, low self-esteem, fatigue, unexplained physical complaints, or frequent thoughts of dying.
One of the first approaches is to simply talk to your teen about their feelings. It is imperative to provide emotional support, discuss bullying, explore ways to alleviate stress, consider limiting screen time, and, most importantly, remove accessibility to guns, medications (including over-the-counter drugs), alcohol and anything deemed a threat to someone with depression.
Scheduling a wellness checkup or an office visit specifically to address depression and anxiety is recommended, as well. A depression screening questionnaire is an excellent tool to start the discussion of feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and stressors related to school and peer pressure.
The good news is there are many ways to treat depression, including counseling, individual and group or family therapy, social services to help meet fundamental needs, or psychiatry and medication when needed.
Depression can present with many different faces. Sometimes it is obvious at first glance, while other times it is hidden behind a smile.
When reaching out to those who may be struggling with depression, never underestimate the power of friendship and kindness, as it could make a world of difference to someone who is silently suffering.
As parents and providers, it is important to prepare a safety plan.
- Make sure your teen understands the treatment plan and that it may take several weeks to see changes.
- Make sure he or she has someone to call when alone if there are increased feelings of sadness or thoughts of self-harm.
- Be aware of the risk factors for suicide, such as giving away personal belongings, increased risk-taking behaviors, or increased thoughts of death.
- Finally, discuss important resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which may be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.