Helping depressed teens

Depression is a common and serious issue affecting as many as 10 per cent of youth between 12 and 17.

Unfortunately, due to stigma and incorrect understanding about what is normal emotional turmoil associated with this age, most depressed teens don’t get any professional help.

A study of treatment for adolescent depression found 62 per cent of depressed teens don’t receive any counseling or medication for their condition. Those who do receive treatment report positive results.

A study of more than 9,000 teens in the U.S. with a major depressive episode found 22 per cent received counselling, but no medication, 13 per cent received a combination of counselling and medication and three per cent received medication only. 

Of those receiving just counselling support, 32 per cent reported it was extremely helpful or helped a lot and 25 per cent said it helped somewhat, and 44 per cent reported it was not helpful or only a little helpful. 

Results were a little better for those receiving both counselling and medication with 47 per cent saying it was extremely helpful or helped a lot and 22 per cent saying it helped somewhat.

It is encouraging to see that more than half of teens who do receive some treatment for depression find it is helpful. Still, more than half of depressed teens are not seeking treatment and this is concerning. 

Depression is not a normal part of adolescence and should not be ignored. It is a mental illness than can greatly impact a teen’s ability to function and reach his or her potential during these formative years.

Not only will it negatively affect quality of life and opportunities, but it poses a significant risk for suicide and substance abuse. 

Adolescent services in B.C. are difficult to access in a timely fashion. Also many teens are resistant to seeking help even when it is offered. Many deny their problems or seek help in the wrong places. Sometimes they are wary of help when it is offered. 

Depression tends to be a chronic, life-long condition. Outcomes are better with earlier intervention. 

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • persistent sadness
  • loss of interest in activities
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • changes in sleep or eating habits
  • irritability
  • restlessness and agitation
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • lack of enthusiasm
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • difficulty concentrating
  • thoughts of death or suicide. 

If you think your child is depressed, speak to your doctor. Help is available.


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About the Author

Paul Latimer has over 25 years experience in clinical practice, research, and administration.

After obtaining his medical degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, he did psychiatric training at Queen's, Oxford and Temple Universities. After his residency he did a doctorate in medical science at McMaster University where he was also a Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar.

Since 1983 he has been practicing psychiatry in Kelowna, BC, where he has held many administrative positions and conducted numerous clinical trials.

He has published many scientific papers and one book on the psychophysiology of the functional bowel disorders.

He is an avid photographer, skier and outdoorsman.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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