Teenage depression is growing and many American teens have seen depression in their friends in one form or another. The statistics are alarming for girls and boys between the age of 12 and 17 struggling with depression:

  • About 13% of teen girls have had depression in the last year
  • About 5% of teen boys have had depression in the last year
  • This total to about 8% of teens overall or more than two million teens who suffer with depression

That sure is a lot of teens with depression hanging around.

Sadly, it is more likely that a 17 year old is more depressed than a middle schooler.  Depression is just simply more probable with aging teenagers.

Reality of Teen Depression

Even with staggering statistics regarding teen depression, researchers still conclude depression is an overmedicated disease, but it also an under-diagnosed disease. There are too many people (adults and teens) taking antidepressants and too many people left untreated for depression.

The federal government released these statistics through studies done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in May of 2009. They surveyed 67,000 teens from across the country to discover the staggering problem of depression. For this study, depression was lasted for at least 2 weeks and was defined as:

  • Having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest/pleasure
  • Sleep troubles
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of concentration
  • Compromised self-esteem

That is quite an unhappy camper! If you are a parent, friend or loved one of a teen with depression, than please respond to this cry for help and treat it like any other urgent condition needing medical attention. Just because someone is moody or stops caring about what makes them happy (guitar playing, baking cookies, shopping, etc.), it doesn’t mean you give them space. If they had fallen down or had a high fever, you would do something to help them.  The reality is a mental health problem is just as serious as broken arm and needs to be treated as quickly as possible.

By treating depression in the early stages, the treatments and remedies are more effective in the first few weeks of symptoms. So please, don’t ignore a depressed teen!

The Depression Difference

By being educated about teen depression statistics and by being aware of the symptoms of depression, you can help make a difference in someone with depression – teen or adult. Here are additional symptoms of depression in a teenager and how they might differ from adult depression:

  • Teens are more irritable when depressed, whereas adults tend to be more sad.
  • Teens have more unexplained headaches and stomachaches when depressed – more so than adults struggling with depression.
  • Teens suffering with depression will respond to criticism more severely, especially those teens that are over achievers.
  • And while a depressed adult might withdraw, a depressed teenager selectively withdraws from friends or selectively prefers other (harmful) crowds.

If you think antidepressants

are the answer to your teens depression, then think again! Impressive research from scientists who study the brain heavily warn against prescribing antidepressants for teens. Why? Because a developing brain is stunted by antidepressant medication and causes more damage. That certainly doesn’t help a growing teen who is already struggling.  Take away more brain cells with antidepressants? I don’t think so!

Amir Raz doesn’t think so, either! He is a cutting edge researcher and neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal and someone how is not afraid of speaking the truth.

“The human brain is developing exponentially when we are very young. Exposure to antidepressants may affect or influence the wiring of the brain, especially when it comes to certain elements that have to do with stress, emotion and regulation of these.”

For more from Raz and antidepressant use in children and teens, check out the June 2007 issue of Scientific American (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=kids-on-meds-trouble-ahead).

The fact is, a pill does not make life better. 

So, if health experts warn of antidepressant use in children and teens, what do you do? Depression demands attention. There are ways you can reach out to a depressed teen.

  • Be clear you love the teen unconditionally.
  • Hold back from asking too many questions to avoid “crowding” the teen.
  • Don’t give up if the teen shuts you out at first.
  • Be respectful, emphasize your willingness to listen without judgment, hang in there.
  • Don’t try talking the teen out of depressive feelings or symptoms. Depression is real and a condition that demands attention.

Depressed teens typically rely on their friends more than their parents or other adults in their lives, so you might find yourself in the position of being the first—or only—person that they talk to about their feelings. While this might seem like a huge responsibility, there are many things you can do to help.

Offer support

Let depressed teenagers know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

Be gentle but persistent

Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

Listen without lecturing

Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

Validate feelings

Don’t try to talk teens out of their depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling. If you don’t, they will feel like you don’t take their emotions seriously.

All-natural depression aids can help in cases of mild depression or bouts of sadness in your teen during rough times in their life, but it is important to distinguish between the blues and a real problem. Learn more about depression at: TheJoyEquation.com

Further Related Reading:

“Bob Condor is a Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors’ Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”