Fact Sheet Index

Issues with Adolescents and Depression and/or Suicide
Statistics on Depression and Suicide Among Adolescents

One in five children have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. And up to one in 10 may suffer from a serious emotional disturbance. Seventy percent of children, however, do not receive mental health services (SGRMH, 1999).

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in children, affecting 3 to 5 percent of school-age children (NIMH, 1999).

As many as one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents may have depression (CMHS, 1998).

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds. The number of attempted suicides is even higher (AACAP, 1997).

Studies have confirmed the short-term efficacy and safety of treatments for depression in youth (NIMH, 2000). (Source, National Mental Health Association, http://www.nmha.org)

Is My Child Depressed?

One of the most serious behavioral problems among troubled teenagers is depression. It is essential that parents recognize when a pre-adolescent or adolescent child is depressed, because treatment is more effective with early intervention. The more serious consequence of untreated depression can be risk of suicide. Therefore, any indication that a child has been depressed for six months or more should be treated in the same way you would if you saw signs of physical disease in that child.

One of the obstacles facing parents is that the child may simply seem like what many believe is a “normal teen”-angry, belligerent, irritable, and hostile. These behaviors when isolated to events or short periods of time may well be the growing pains of adolescence, but when they extend beyond a six-month period and seem intractable and entrenched, parents need to seek intervention before more serious indications arise.

The typical signs of depression are:

Adolescent feels “low” most of the time
Adolescent is irritable, especially when pressed to be more active
Weight loss or weight gain (more than 10% of normal weight)
Insomnia or sleeplessness, or the opposite, excessive need for sleep
Low energy, seemingly the teen has no “get up and go”
Child says things that indicate low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness
Suicidal thoughts, ideation, or threats (with or without a plan)
Drop in grades
Drop in social activities, interactions with peers, or sudden change in friends
Teenager cannot seem to make a decision
Low frustration level
Frequent bouts of crying, often “for no reason”
Lack of interest in their usual activities (social, family, academic, extracurricular)

If your child says certain tell-tale things that indicate depression, and stays in this “state of mind” for more than six months, it is time to seek outside therapy or other interventions. Typical statements repeated are:

I don’t know why I bother, what’s the point of anything
I wish I were dead
I can’t do anything right. I’m worthless. (Or variations on this theme)

If your teenager seems stuck in a pattern that includes some of these behaviors, it is time to seek therapy and make sure your child is properly treated should he or she be suffering from depression.

How some of our programs deal with the treatment of teenagers with depression:

SUWS: The wilderness experience removes modern distractions and allows teens to work through issues such as depression. Two self-concept studies that utilized control groups, pre- and post-testing, and a follow-up after one year revealed significant, positive improvements in student self-concept after participation in the SUWS Program. Talk to a program representative for more information.

Aspen Ranch has a unique approach to teens struggling with issues such as failing school. Equine-assisted therapy can be highly effective in helping teens understand and verbalize their issues. Their relationship with the horse gives them a new perspective on their lives and behaviors, and facilitates emotional expression in adolescents who feel disconnected and depressed. Talk to a program representative for more information.

Youth Care deals effectively with adolescents who are clinically depressed. The residential treatment offered by both programs is a good option for teenagers with resistance to treatment for their depression. Talk to a program representative for more information.