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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published Feb. 19, 2009                                                         

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What are the signs of teen depression?

   More than 8 million kids across the country are suffering from depression, according to studies. One group particularly prone to the mental illness is teenagers. Depression crosses all cliques at school and is something experts say parents and teachers should have open communication about.
   “No one is immune to depression,” said Phyllis Gorman, an instructor at the Robert Crown Center. “It effects kids that are rich and poor, kids with learning disabilities and kids who are gifted. It crosses all races. There are some kids out there who have everything but are still very sad inside.”
   The number of teen depression cases in the U.S. has gone up over the past several years, and Gorman said it’s most likely linked to more diagnoses and elevated stress levels in society.
   “Part of it is they’re recognizing it much earlier, and the other is there is a lot more happening in society that is causing teens to worry,” she said. “Years ago I would ask kids what the best part of being a kid was, and they would say ‘having no responsibility.’ Now they tell me things like ‘not having to pay the mortgage or not needing money for groceries.’ These are things their parents are worrying about and they’re picking up on it.”
   Depression can come in all different forms, Gorman said. While some teens may display signs of withdrawal or lack on interest in things, others may experience anxiety from activity overload or achievement expectations. Concerned parents should monitor their child’s behavior and watch to see if symptoms last longer than two weeks. Gorman said it’s also important to keep lines of communication open with the teen as well as his or her teachers. Robert Crown has a program called Training the Trainers to equip teachers on detecting signs of depression.
   “It’s hard to detect depression in teens sometimes because they’re typically moody and they do distance themselves from adults. But if they can’t get out of the bad mood or behavior in two weeks, then there’s more to it,” she said.
   A cluster of any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks can mean a teen is depressed: Loss of energy, fatigue or restlessness, feelings of hopelessness, change in eating and/or sleeping habits, withdrawal from activities or friends, sense of worthlessness, guilt, excessive anger or violence, anxiety, phobias or fears, alcohol and/or substance abuse and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
   Gorman said the first place to go when suspecting depression is the teen’s teachers.
   “Teachers are with the teens all day and usually spend more time during the day with them than their parents do,” she said. “They may notice some of the symptoms in school, like lower grades, difficulty remaining in class, sensitivity to noise and confusion.”
   Teen depression can be biological, and it can also be situational. Gorman said a death in the family, divorce or any kind of sudden loss can cause teens to fall into a depression.
   “A lot of the time parents are in denial,” Gorman said. “Depression can be genetic. A lot of parents may have been depressed in the past, but they have a hard time recognizing it in their own kids.”


       Making a Difference is a yearlong partnership between The Hinsdalean
and the Robert Crown Center for Health Education, which works
to teach and motivate youth to lead healthy, happy and safe lives.




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