Thursday, 26 February 2015

Depression in Teens

I thought I would write something a little different this week so I decided to post an article about mental health in teenagers that I wrote about 6 months ago. All of the facts in this post have been found on many different sites; however with something like mental health it is very hard to find statistics that are the same across every source. Also this information is changing everyday but I feel like this is a fairly good overview of teenage mental health so... 

All people feel sad or unhappy at times during their lives; however persistent sadness may be depression. Depression is a serious illness that affects 1 out of every 100 adults under the age of 65 (according to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation). It is estimated that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem and 1 in 4 families worldwide is likely to have at least one member with a behavioural or mental disorder. Not only this, but a quarter of adolescences have a depressive disorder by the age of 18 and yet; although it effects 40 million people per year many people still refuse to say that it is a serious illness and instead they are convinced that these suffers are ‘bluffing’.

This is not true.

Depression comes in many different forms and each of these have an array of different symptoms depending on the form of illness. Each patient who is being diagnosed with depression falls into one of three categories: major depression, dysthym disorder and minor depression. Those with major depression will suffer with multiple severe symptoms. These can range from: feeling sad or empty to feeling very tired. That is not to say that if you are feeling a little bit sleepy you have a form of mental illness – you have to have at least two symptoms to be medically diagnosed as a depressive.
Medical research has recently found that there are three main reasons for depression. Genes play a major part in whether a person will be affected or not, so those how have a history of mental illness within their family are 1.5-3.0 times more likely to suffer with depression (according to Washington University’s medical research team). Another reason is ‘Brain Chemistry’ – this means that the subject may have a chemical imbalance in the brain; this form is normally treated with drugs that affect the hormone levels in the body. The third main factor is stress, and especially stress caused by a recent death or being in a difficult relationship.

Once diagnosed, the patient tends to become a subject to multiple different methods to help them control their illness. There is no cure. The most common method of control is psychotherapy. This form of therapy is very effective and is often referred to as ‘counselling’; however this is a common misconception. Counselling is a form of therapy used mainly with adolescences and adults with minor depression or mental illness. Psychotherapists normally attempt to teach new ways of thinking and they help the patient to communicate their emotions through many different methods. These methods may include writing, drawing or even acting out certain situations. Those in counselling are unlikely be prescribed drugs; whereas those in psychotherapy will often be put on medication such as Cymbalta, Zoloft and Prozac. These drugs, although often hated by the users, have the desired effect of boosting the levels of serotonin to the brain (increasing ‘happiness’ levels).

Another, more extreme way of ‘curing’ depression is Electroconvulsive Therapy (also known as ECT). This type of therapy is famous for treating patients that range from Sylvia Plath to Peter Sutcliffe. However, it is more commonly used for the criminally insane because it is deemed inhumane and should only be used as a last resort due to severe side effects. According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists these side effects include: memory loss, several epileptic seizures and confusion – although they tend to be short-term they can sometimes linger longer. Electroconvulsive Therapy is only used to treat those with severe depression that is very difficult to treat. It is slowly being faded out of practice because new, more effective drugs and treatment are being used.
It is now becoming more common for children and adolescents to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Although their symptoms may be similar to that of adults they tend include: getting into trouble in school, becoming socially withdrawn and it is also very common for a sufferer to feel negatively towards school and refuse to go. Unfortunately children and teenagers with coexisting disorders such as a substance abuse are more likely to be depressed and less likely to respond to the available treatment.


As scientists have discovered that younger suffers of depression are also at risk of heart disease, diabetes and other severe illnesses, doctors are now trying desperately to find some way of treating depression. Current antidepressants – although safe – are not always effective and a lot more under 18’s are being hospitalised because they are a risk to themselves. Psychotherapy doesn’t work in most adolescent cases and it became clear in 2007 that things need to change. Why? In 2007 it was discovered that the suicide was the third leading cause for death in youth. Tragically nothing has changed yet, and hundreds of teenagers continue to kill themselves each week.

A brilliant PDF leaflet about mental health can be seen here: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/fundamental_facts_2007.pdf?view=Standard

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