The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published a report that estimates suicide will be the leading cause of death amongst teenagers by 2030. The report, prepared for the UN, found the depression epidemic is the “predominant illness and disability for both boys and girls aged 10 to 19 years.”
Neuropsychiatric disorders are already a disease burden worldwide. WHO has known about the cost of life caused by depression since 1999, but in the last 15 years the issue has received little attention from health organisations or the media – despite depression being the main driver for suicide.
National statistics for the UK show that 11 teenagers in every 100,000 successfully commit suicide and 25% of high school students contemplate taking their own life. In the US, it is thought that 35 million people will struggle through depression at some point in their life and 15% will go on to commit suicide. Worldwide, suicide accounts for 800,000 deaths.
Despite these shocking statistics depression has not received any media attention in the UK since WHO released their initial report in 1999! In fact, it has been quite the opposite. During the infamous Bridgend suicides when 79 people took their lives in five years, the media were accused of glamorising suicide and were said to be “part of the problem” by Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon.
Is your child depressed?
It is evident authorities are not prepared to help combat the problem of depression and raise awareness that your child may be suffering from a mental illness. Teenagers are typically moody, and bouts of sadness and mood swings are chalked down as a change in hormones.
So how do you know if your child is suffering from clinical depression, or whether they are simply enduring adolescence?
Symptoms of depression amount to more than the occasional melancholy or irritable mood. The first signs a teenager may show is a loss of interest in sports or other hobbies and socialising with their friends. However, this can also be part of growing up so don’t be too hasty to judge your child’s mental state.
Other sure-fire signs are difficulty sleeping, a loss of energy and an unwillingness to go to school. Their grades and performance at school may also drop significantly. If they are playing truant or having behavioural problems at school take notice of their behaviour. Are they overly critical of themselves and sensitive to rejection? If so, it’s time to sit down with them for a talk.
Depression usually leads to addiction, generally food, but it could be more serious such as drink or substance abuse. Look for changes in appetite and weight. Excessive late night activities should raise concerns your teenage offspring is using drugs. Agitation and loss of concentration are also indicators they may be using stimulants.
You should keep in mind that symptoms of depression are indicative of normal teenage behaviour, but if they are showing several symptoms, consult a trained health professional that specialises in child psychology. Depression is a clinical mental illness that will only get worse if it is not treated. And statistics show it could get a lot worse.