Depression affects youth, too

Navigating adolescence is a challenging time for everyone. Adolescents are confronting an array of physical, emotional, psychological and social changes all at once. Feeling "blue" or depressed sometimes is a normal part of adolescence and adult life. Some believe that teens experience emotions on a more intense level than adults do and speaking anecdotally, I would agree. This intensity can make depression feel even worse. One of the cruel elements of depression is that it can fool the person suffering depression into believing that they will never feel better again.

If you find yourself feeling down or depressed for more than two weeks, if you find it difficult to sleep at night, your appetite has greatly diminished or increased and you find yourself feeling frequently anxious you might be suffering from depression. If your sadness becomes more profound and protracted, contacting your family Doctor or a mental health professional might be a good idea. If you decide to meet with a counselor, they may employ a variety of tests and interviews to establish a diagnosis. The good news is that there are many medications that can help and when coupled with counseling sessions most people feel better. In fact, most adolescents start feeling better relatively soon once they ask for help and begin receiving it.

Because parents know their children better than anyone does, they may be the first to notice that something is wrong. A significant change in their teen's usual routine, a decline in appearance, isolating themselves and unexpected school failure may be signs that their son or daughter is depressed. As parents, we hurt the most when our children are hurting and we want to help. One thing that parents can do right away is to ask a few open-ended, non-judgmental questions around how their child is feeling and then be a good listener. If you are concerned about what your child tells you, seek professional help. An emergency hotline is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1-888-854-3773.

This column is not intended to provide medical advice, but rather raise an issue that touches so many lives.

Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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