Depression And Your Teen

by Jackie Rosen

Depression is a major factor in the lives of our youth and young adults ages 10 to 24. In Broward County, the youngest child identified by the medical examiner to die of suicide due to depression was only 9 years of age. Every 43 seconds a teen in the USA age 15 to 18 has either planned a suicide or attempted a suicide due to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Why are our children having such a hard time living depression free in today's society? What are the stresses that lead them to the feelings of alienation, helplessness and hopelessness?

Some of today's stresses effecting our youth include the following: high performance standards, peer pressures, cultural demands, family problems, lack of extended family support, over scheduling and the need to have instant gratification. All of these stresses and many more are possible causes that add to the possibility of depression in the youth of our nation.

High performance standards, such as those relating to FCATS and other exams, sports and other after school activities, parental or other adult expectations, needed community service requirements, and tougher college entrance requirements are just some of the causes which produce feelings of performance anxiety and depression. We need to give our children a sense of self that relates to their self worth and individuality. High standards that we must meet are not only met by meeting the expectations of others but also by those set by ourselves.

Peer pressures such as social status, drugs, gangs, bullying, and sexual pressures are stresses that can lead to all kinds of aberrant behaviors. Behaviors such as cutting oneself, criminal behaviors, drug or alcohol use, sexual promiscuousness, eating disorders or destructive acts due to lack of anger control that injure themselves and/or others. Drug and alcohol usage is often a form of self medication to help escape the underlying feelings of depression. These are all possible behaviors that can lead to feelings of overwhelming anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, alienation and ultimately desperation resulting in self harm.

Today our teens are functioning or not functioning under the pressure of serious stressors that parents, teachers, counselors, doctors and coaches have to be aware of and explore as possible signs of a serious state of depression. All adults and peers need to understand the effects and the resulting problems that these stresses produce. All family members need to make themselves aware of the stresses in each others lives and reach out to each other to help recognize the signs and symptoms of depression.

If your child displays helplessness and hopelessness, go to the FISP website's "Signs of Suicide" page at and see if they meet three of the 20 signs of depression which can lead to possible suicidal thoughts. If these feelings last more than two weeks, all day every day then your child may have clinical depression and it is time to seek help. Get help early and avoid years of suf­fering for your child and all those who know and love them.

Jackie Rosen is the Executive Director/CEO of the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention, Inc. - FISP