Is your student or child not studying? Has his /her behavior changed drastically? Is he/she not participating in sports activities? Attention Mentors and Parents! ~ Editor
“The grey drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain. But it is not an immediately identifiable pain, like that of a broken limb.”
William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
Now let’s read what Ms. Gaganjot Gill, PGT, Psychology, MRIS Mohali has to say, why these days; so many Indian teens suffer from depression?
According to her, in today’s modern era, where children turn into teens in no time, it’s increasingly difficult to understand what’s on their minds and how they’re feeling. The reality is really scary and we have to understand that teens today are dealing with superincumbent challenges.
Depression is certainly just not a phase or a temporary feeling of mass coil of guilt, frustration, never-ending irritability and uselessness when you are a teen. Every single one of us, regardless of whether we are living through adolescence, adulthood or old age, experience these basic emotions and feelings.
Research and Findings
At times, the vicious circle of poverty and unpredictability, results in severe depressive environs.
There is prominent research and findings conducted on teen depression which assists in understanding it and finding ways to treat it. A few have been mentioned below:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) declared 2001 as the year for Mental Health (WHO, 2001).
- Mental health is more than mere lack of mental disorders; WHO defines it as ‘a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community.’
- According to The National Mental Health Survey of India, 3% of Indian youth have experienced major depressive episodes. There were many cases that were not reported.
- According to the NIMH, helping teens recognize that they are not alone, that there are people who want to help them and that depression is a real thing. Treatable brain illness can help teens receive the care they need.
- There is a robust and long-standing evidence base which shows that lower levels of education, poverty, marginalization, and social disadvantages have greater exposure to more stressful life experiences, which contribute to a greater risk of mental disorders.
What are the Symptoms of Depression in teens?
Most of the time, we assume adolescent behaviour as moody, difficult, demanding and a strenuous exercise which every parent experiences. It’s normal for teens to be down or out of sorts for several days.
Symptoms of depression are difficult to identify in teens as mood swings and emotional changes can be thought of as features of normal growing up.
The below listed symptoms may help understand depression amongst teens better.
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Unexplained aches or pains
- Overreaction to criticism
- Changes in eating habits
- Social withdrawal
- Change in sleep patterns
- Sudden decline in grades
- Anxious, worrying, and intrusive thoughts
- Decreased self-esteem, care and hygiene
- Suicidal thoughts
- Overloaded with Guilt
If the above-mentioned symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, then professional attention and care is required.
What Causes Depression in teens?
It’s a common belief that depression is ‘all in the mind.’ With the thought that it’s up to the individual to be able to snap out of it, but it’s more than what meets the eye.
Depression doesn’t mean that an individual is weak or you did something wrong, but various factors influence its occurrence and recurrence.
Some of the significant factors that cause depression are mentioned below:
1. Parental pressure
The most common cause of depression and anxiety among Indian teens is extreme pressure to excel, built at home by their parents. The stress of being unable to meet parent’s high demands is expressed through depression and anxiety.
The symptoms of grief from the loss of a loved one are expected to subside over time. But when symptoms get worse, grief may turn into depression.
3. Genetic predisposition
One becomes biologically vulnerable to depression due to a family history of depression and anxiety. Studies show that having a parent and grandparent with depression can increase the risk of having the same.
4. Traumatic events
Childhood trauma such as loss of a parent, physical or emotional abuse can lead to the development of depression in adolescents.
5. Unresolved family conflict
Research says that the teenage brain is different from that of an adult. The adult brain thinks through the prefrontal cortex (rational part), whereas the teen brain processes information in the amygdale (emotional part).
The rational component that is the prefrontal cortex is still developing in teens. In SIMPLE words, feelings come before ‘thinking’. Hence, any long-term unsolved family conflict can result in depression in teens.
6. Major disappointments
Failing in exams, expecting too much from relationships and friends, experiencing a relationship breakup, unable to get a job or admission to a good college, results in negative emotions which further increase the risk of depression.
Being a teenager is tough but it doesn’t mean that one is lonely, isolated and is haunted by a feeling of hopelessness.
7. Hormonal imbalance
Neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin and nor epinephrine, play an important role in mood regulation. Too much or too little supply of these neurotransmitters can lead to depression.
8. Poor nutrition
A deficiency in a variety of vitamins and minerals can result in depression.
Research has found that diets low in omega-3 fatty acids are linked with increased rates of depression.
Depression affects the way a teen feels, thinks and acts. There is not one effect of depression; it has multiple effects which later start manifesting in adulthood.
Dr. K John Vijay Sagar, additional professor, child and adolescent psychiatry, Nimhans said, Academic stress, family issues and bullying in school, concern for family income all contribute to an increase in prevalence.
Can we ever beat depression? If we can then how?
Every individual is different and so is his recovery from depression. There are higher chances of depression coming back but the frequency of the episodes may vary from person to person.
Right therapy, an appropriate support system, self-care can lower the frequency of recurrence.
Inculcating skills to navigate through the daily hassles and other life stressors can effectively help teens to change the negative thinking patterns and unhealthy lifestyle.
Distorted thinking should be replaced with the help of various coping strategies which include critical thinking, effective communication, problem solving, and regulating emotions. Understanding the importance of the cognitive aspects of self which includes self-esteem and self-efficacy and learning various stress management techniques can also help.
The most important is encouraging teens to talk to someone they trust, a family member, a friend, teacher or school counsellor can improve the symptoms of depression. There is an urgent need to assess depressed teens as to how they are responding to various situations.
Our job as adults is to be there for them and help them sail through the intense pressures the world places on them.
If you think your teen child is depressed, promptly seek professional treatment. Most importantly, be around your child; try to share his/her problems by being a friend. The child should always feel comfortable with parents. Depression becomes a sore and if left untreated, can be life-threatening. Your teenager child needs your guidance, even though they may think they don’t. At times, you may have to bear their anger and tantrums but parenting is all about patience! Life of your child is more important than anything else in this world. Understanding their development can help you support them in becoming independent, responsible adults.
Depression doesn’t see gender, age, race, or culture. Mild or chronic, teen or adult depression is critical. Support from family and professional care will help you sail through the silent enemy.
Author: Ms. Gaganjot Gill, PGT, PSYCHOLOGY, MRIS MOHALI