Recognizing signs of depression in teenagers - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Recognizing signs of depression in teenagers

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

Western Mass News focused on sobering statistics on teenage suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, every 100 minutes a teen takes their own life. 

The good news is, clinicians in Massachusetts said more parents are recognizing the signs of depression in their children, and are reaching out for help in greater numbers. 

Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.  

About twenty percent of all teens experience depression before they reach adulthood, and between ten to fifteen percent suffer from symptoms at any one time.

Those numbers courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health. 

"Teenagers are the most at risk for depression because their brains are wired to make impulsive decisions and do risky things so they are at the most risk for depression," said Audra Winn, Clinical Social Worker at the Gandara Mental Health Center. 

Winn told Western Mass News teen depression and suicide rates are in the news much more than in years past, which may not be a bad thing.

"I think it's in the news so much because so many more parents are aware of teen suicide and they see the red flags coming with their own kids," she noted. 

"So as a parent if you notice that something's just off about your son or daughter, they're not behaving the same way they used to, they're making decisions that seem kind of impulsive, they're not hanging out with their friends as much or all the sudden they have different friends and different interests, those are mood changes and that's important," Winn added. 

Those signs include:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor school performance
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

Winn said that it's important for parents to keep an eye out and more importantly, trust your intuition.

"If a parent senses that something is not the same and doesn't feel right and makes them worry then it probably is right to go with that intuition and say maybe we need to seek help somewhere else and seeing a therapist shouldn't be just for crisis situations but for prevention as well," she explained. 

Winn said it's also important that you make the conversation, and let them know you do not know all the answers.

"If you make them think that you've got it all figured out, they're not going to want to open up to you. But, if show them that I'm really unsure about something too and we need to do something with this, then you can open the door and they'll be more likely to share with you if you show that you're not an expert either," she said.   

The good news is in Massachusetts, according to Winn, is very progressive in covering preventative and emergency services for teens and parents, who reach out.

For parents and teens needing help, Winn said the Children's Behavioral Health Initiative is designed for kids on MassHealth.  

The service is available to ages 5 to 21 and Winn said most private health insurance companies also cover services such as therapists and outreach programs. 

Copyright 2017 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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