Reaching Out – Understanding Teen Depression

Cpl. Pat Bryant, the Central Saanich Police Youth Resource Officer, is a veteran police officer with nearly 24 years of police experience.   This is his first installment of his new ” Youth Resource Officer” blog.

Teen Depression is a serious matter in our Community, one that we must not over look. Understanding what Teen Depression is and what to look for is our first step in helping our Youth.  Depression can lead our Teens to suicide or attempting suicide. Communication with our Teens is an important part of a successful and healthy relationship.

Teenage depression is an unbiased disease that affects about 20 per cent of all teens regardless of gender, social background, family income level, and race. Teenage depression is not limited to or affected by geographic locations or schools.  It is known that girls tend to be affected more by depression than boys but it is also known that boys are less likely to seek help or even admit to depression. Girls are taught to be more open and discuss their problems where boys are still taught from an early age to deal with things themselves.

Feeling sad and depressed is a normal part of life’s ups and downs. However, these prolonged feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, and feeling sad most of the time is not a normal day to day reaction to the ebb and flow of life.

Teen depression may include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Irrational anger and irritability that is often just put down as a child having a rebellious nature or wanting to prove themselves
  • Unexplained aches and pains that fail to respond to treatments
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism, often considered as being too moody or cranky, and in the case of over achievers, this is especially prominent
  • Withdrawal from friends and social gatherings or in some cases switching to social groups that are contrary to what they would normally choose

Effects:

  • If teenage depression is allowed to go to long without being treated it can lead to some very unhealthy and possibly even disastrous effects.  Some of these may include:
  • Attempts or threats of running away which are often cries for help or intervention in a world they don’t understand.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse -this is often an attempt at self medication but all too often just complicates the depression.
  • Eating disorders – such disorders as anorexia or bulimia are often a major side affect of teenage depression when teens try new ways to fit in.
  • Addiction to computers and the internet is a more modern effect when teens try to reach out to belong but actually increase their isolation from the real world.
  • Cutting or burning when used as self injury may also be a cry for attention.
  • Reckless behavior or violent behavior can have a deep effect on not only the teen’s life but on those around him or her.
  • Suicide is probably the worst of the effects and talk of or attempted suicides should never be ignored.

When a teen is being treated for teenage depression he/she will need parents, family and friend support more than ever. The knowledge that they are loved, valued and needed goes a long way in affecting a cure.

Communication with our teens is essential; how else can we start understanding what our teen might be going through. The first step is to let them talk. When teens are ready to talk please LISTEN.   Do not be judgmental, shocked or angry.  Offer support and reassurance that suicidal feelings do not last forever.  Seek assistance from a trained professional as soon as possible.

Listening to your teen with an open mind can help you to start finding out what might be wrong.  Before responding in any way take some time to think about what has been said. Maybe then you will start to recognize changes mentioned above.   If you are a good listener it will help get serious matters dealt with lot quicker than putting things off until it’s too late. Many times we (Police) hear parents say “If I had just listened I could have got them help sooner”.

Understanding, recognizing and listening to our Teens is so important.  A happy Teen is a productive, enjoyable creature who should move into adulthood with the greatest of ease. It’s a wonderful part of their life we want to be involved in.

Don’t you think?

Cpl. Pat Bryant

Youth Resource Officer

Central Saanich Police Service

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