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Teenage Depression
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I’ve worked with teenagers for over twenty years now and have loved every minute of it. Many I’ve known have been well-balanced, happy teens. Yet I’ve been surprised at the numbers who have faced either mild or serious depression. The causes of teen depression vary, but the warning signs are the same:
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 1
If you know a teen with these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Get help immediately from a doctor, counselor, pastor or someone who can get you the resources you need. There’s even a 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK. What we don’t want to happen is for a teen’s depression to get so severe that he or she contemplates suicide. Here are some additional warning signs that they may be headed in that direction:
  • Talking or joking about committing suicide
  • Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out”
  • Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)
  • Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide
  • Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for good
  • Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves 2
In 2001, teen suicide was the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24. There’s no annual data regarding suicide attempts, but there are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every teen suicide death. 3

As the mom of a teen, these statistics sadden me. The teen years are supposed to be some of the best years of a person’s life. They should be full of fun and friends, adventures and learning new things, getting to know Jesus and living that abundant life He talks about.

Many of our kids are in trouble. They need us. As parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors and family friends, we need to give our kids a break. We need to love them unconditionally, forgive them always, accept them as they are, be an example of a well-balanced and happy Christian, and offer them the support and help they need, should they face depression.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Pay attention, ask questions, and most importantly, act on your intuition.

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By Nancy Canwell Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

1 http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm
2 Ibid.
3 http://www.familyfirstaid.org/suicide.html

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