Adolescence can be, and is, a very tumultuous time for many individuals. Whether troubles abound at home, among peers, or in a school setting that is apart from the aforementioned scenarios, depression and suicide are very prominent issues that impact adolescence for many different reasons. Whether depression is brought on by physiological trauma or external sources doesn’t matter so much in regards to how such a troubled state is handled by the individual and those around them. Adolescents that experience depression are less likely to ask for help and more likely to self-destruct.
There is no doubt that the life of an adolescent is a difficult time, as there are many changes that occur during such a period, and not all that are entirely understood or desired. Defined as the period in life during which a child will begin the process of becoming an adult, the transition of adolescence is not always a welcome one, as the changes that occur can be quite unexpected and a little frightening at times. More to the point however adolescence brings about changes in a person’s physical form and mental state that can have the same effect of rewiring a circuit board in some ways. Having grown used to life as they know it to that point, a child will likely not understand what is happening to them, nor why their peers, who may have been friends until this point, now look at them oddly and don’t fully understand the changes that are taking place. The onset of puberty can be cruel to many children, as some experience tremendous growth spurts while others exhibit even more pronounced physical effects that set them apart from others.
Chemicals within the brain that affect moods and temperament are only precursors to the problem of depression, but they can go a long way to explaining why some teens are more prone to depression than others. Heredity is a less than accurate tool as well, but can at least establish
as to whether or not an adolescent might be more or less predisposed to feelings of depression and anxiety. Overall states of depression, be they mild or severe, are brought on by a host of factors that must be considered. Added to this the many symptoms that can be observed within adolescents during the time between childhood and adulthood and it becomes increasingly difficult to truly define the severity of depression or if it even exists.
Depression is a very likely possibility during the ten to twelve-year period that is puberty. It is during this time that parents are cautioned and even instructed to help their children learn more about their bodies, how they are growing, and what is to be expected as they continue to
mature. Many adolescents become depressed during this time as they are convinced that they are odd, weird, or in some way not as good as those around them. This type of negative self-esteem is very pervasive during puberty, as the rate of maturity varies from one individual to the next, and can be a point of ridicule between young people who are still attempting to figure out their own changing bodies and attitudes.
There are a number of factors that can bring on thoughts of suicide and depression ranging from the most mundane to the most traumatic. Stress and anxiety are not always entirely external forces that can drive a teen to depression. While it is not conclusive it has been seen that those adolescents that do show a greater lean towards depression have a much more negative interaction with their parental figures and as such have far more negative experiences in their lives. (O’Shea, Spence, Donovan, 2014) Unfortunately as serious as this development can be it is not nearly the worst case scenario when it comes to depression. There are factors that lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide as a result that cannot be handled with therapy or even counseling designed to at least recognize and understand the problem, inner workings that are
biological precursors towards depression and self-destructive behaviors that adolescents are not always entirely aware of but suffer from regardless.
Nutritional and chemical imbalances within the body can lead to lowered states of self-esteem and depression that is easily handled with proper nutrition and care, but is very easy to become neglectful of. The human body is a marvel of science and biological engineering, but first and foremost it is a machine that must be properly fed and maintained to establish a healthy baseline from which to build. While it is not as widely known as researched and verified fact, the human body requires proper nourishment not only to function, but to maintain a healthy attitude as well. (Botha, 2015) In order to remain healthy in mind it is important to remain healthy in body as well.
For some healthy living is a matter of diet, exercise, and keeping active. For many adolescents though even this proves not to be enough as the pressures of daily living and their own changing physical environment exert pressures that are not so easily released.
While some can find release in sports and outdoor activities, others take far more negative routes that only exacerbate their already dangerous situation. One route that many have followed but is not the decisive path for all teens is religion. While it is not always the chosen path as it does demand some measure of conformity, the path of religion also offers structure, support, and community that can help to fill the seemingly empty space in an adolescent’s life that might otherwise overwhelm them. (Pearce, Koenig, Robins, Nelson, Shaw, Cohen, King, 2015) Religion is a structured and often non-judgmental support structure that many teens look to in times of need, and find that they can depend on thanks to the sense of community it brings.
The topic of depression within religion is one that is broached but not considered an overwhelming issue to deal with, but suicide is another matter. Within the tenets of many different religions the act of suicide is considered a sin. Primarily in Christianity, suicide is seen as a sin against God, and in some denominations it is considered a mortal sin that can deny a soul
entry to heaven. While the theological debate is long and quite involved, the truth of the matter that is while suicide might very well be a sin within many religious sects, the act has wide-reaching effects that can seriously stress the beliefs of others that are in some way connected to those who do commit suicide. Thankfully many churches offer services and support in many forms to counter the effects of depression before it leads to such drastic matters.
Support groups exist to help those who suffer through depression in many forms. While it is ultimately the decision of the individual and, in this case, their parents and/or guardians to take them to such support sessions, the outcome is generally one of great positivity and a non-judgmental environment where an adolescent can share what is troubling them without fear of
being alienated any further. Support groups are generally designed to engage an individual in both social functions and to administer therapeutic techniques that are designed to understand the underlying problems and thereby formulate solutions that might help an individual and those around them. (Fine, Forth, Gilbert, Haley, 1999) While it is by no means a cure-all for depression and suicidal tendencies, therapy and social interaction is by and large a step in the right direction to healing.
It is unfortunate that as many helpful aids and programs that have been developed over the years to combat depression that none of them as are, as of yet, foolproof and able to help those who suffer fully recover in a timely and complete manner. For every individual that is helped by one system, support group, or other technique to stave off depression there are other issues that teens go through that are unique to the individual and thus require a new approach. As the methods and techniques used begin to catch up with the ever-changing moods of adolescence the matter is becoming one that is slightly easier to help and thereby affect in a positive manner.
Teen suicides only account for a very small amount death by suicide across the nation, but the matter is still troubling enough to be a problem. While the suicide rate of adolescents has tapered off in the past several years, the issue remains that depression and depression-related suicides are still a very real problem amongst teenagers, particularly those in middle to high school. When left unchecked or otherwise untreated, depression in teens can lead in several different directions, most of those being quite negative and destructive.
While it is easy to misdiagnose depression, it is still important for parents to pay close attention to their children and interact on a more personal level at times.
A very serious side effect of parental neglect or parental absence, particularly in cases where an adolescent is already depressed, is that they will turn to other means by which to feel good, wanted, or simply unable to care about their own problems. Sense of self in the mind of an adolescent is still a relatively new concept, and one that is still quite fragile as it requires years of experience in social settings and interactions to fully develop. In this vein it is important for parents, friends, and others that interact with adolescents to understand the difference between a bad mood and true depression. Lack of drive, motivation, and the uncontrollable mood swings that are naturally occurring when one comes of age are still early warning signs of depression, and must be treated as so if they persist for more than is considered normal. While it is not vital to monitor an adolescent every single minute of the day it is still prudent to observe and pay close attention to the changes in adolescents as they are at the point in life where a serious flux between childhood and adulthood occurs. This change is very natural and affects many people differently, but can alter moods and feelings to such a degree in some that serious imbalances, both emotional and chemical, could occur, thereby throwing the individual into an emotional tailspin that can be very difficult to recover from.
It has been noted that teen girls experience depression far more than teen boys, as the changes that occur within an adolescent’s body during their teenage years are substantial. The process of becoming sexually active and desirable to the opposite sex begins to raise certain questions within the mind of an adolescent, such as the need to fit in, where they belong, are they straight, gay, or in some way different from others, and of course are they so different from anyone else.
These thoughts alone can lead to a state of depression that might last days, weeks, or even months, but are likely to be resolved as the adolescent continues to grow.
During this time it is very important for a parent or guardian to be attentive and present should the adolescent have any questions or concerns they need to address. The presence of a parent or guardian is without a doubt one of the most important factors to recognizing true, clinical depression in an adolescent. Aside from this are classes that help parents and guardians to recognize the signs and symptoms and how to react to them when they appear. Parents must be the front line that acts in response to depression and the desire to commit suicide, as they are more often the ones that are around their children and therefore can recognize the differences in behavior. Friends that are around such individuals and family members that are frequent enough participants in the life of an adolescent are also important in that they can hopefully see the difference between mild depression, which can come and go in the life of a teenager, and the true clinical depression which is far more serious and much harder to endure.
Clinical depression, or major depression, is typically diagnosed by recognizing several important criteria that can be identified by careful observation and recognition. The loss of a loved one, a bad mood, and other such states of depression are not on their own able to cause the type of depression that requires medical and/or therapeutic treatment, but they can be life events
that are capable of creating or worsening symptoms of depression that can develop over time. (Hall-Flavin, 2015) More often than not the symptoms noticed must be severe enough to disrupt an individual’s life as well as the lives of those around them. Depression is measured by the affects it has upon the individual and those around them, but in teenagers it is often seen that the symptoms include withdrawal from social activities and interaction with anyone that might be willing or able to help. In order to recognize depression it is first and foremost the responsibility of others to take note, and if able to find a way to speak to the individual about the matter. Talking about depression is often the first step towards a viable cure.
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