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Family Guidance Blog

How Parents Can Identify and Support Teens Through Depression

Depression 5The adolescent years can be tough for both parents and teens. The coming of age brings so many emotions that parents may wonder if their child’s moodiness or changes in behavior are something to be concerned about or are just a rite of passage. Depression is a serious mental health condition, so it’s important to be vigilant to the signs.

Dr. Keith Cheng, who is an adolescent psychiatrist and the chief medical officer at Trillium Family Services in Oregon, gives several symptoms of potential depression that parents should watch for:

  • Expressing a lack of self-worth or self-esteem
  • Experiencing periods of melancholy that persist beyond two weeks
  • “Cutting” or other self-harm behaviors
  • Losing interest in things or activities once important
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns

While depression can be genetic in origin, Cheng says it can also be situational. A break-up or bullying incident is probably much more traumatic for teens and adolescents than it would be for adults. Cheng also says that depression can be triggered when certain developmental milestones are not achieved causing youngsters to feel cut-off from their peers. One example of this provided by Cheng is the child who feels left out at school because he doesn’t have a cell phone like everyone else.

If parents suspect there may be a problem, a good first step is to make an appointment to see the child’s primary care physician. This way, any physical health concerns such as anemia, hypothyroidism, or a deficiency in vitamin D, which can affect energy levels and mood, can be ruled out. Ensuring kids get proper nutrition, sleep and exercise is also important for development and mood regulation.

Children with depression may try and isolate themselves from their families. Parents should still try and maintain open lines of communication and encourage their kids to talk about their feelings on a regular basis.

Depression is a highly treatable disease. There are a number of successful treatment options, and not all involve medication. Family Guidance Center is a local community resource for parents wanting to know more about depression and other mental health disorders. To learn more or set up a free screening, contact Family Guidance Center.

Depression, the Quiet Companion for Many College Students

ADHD 1Depression is a mental health disorder that can impact anyone under extreme pressure. Experts agree that the condition can be brought on by stressful situations occurring in the workplace, at home, or at school. It should come as no surprise, then, that an increasing number of college students are experiencing symptoms of depression.

College is a time of many transitions and new beginnings. Some students are coping with the reality of suddenly being separated from family and friends. Others are trying to find their place in the new social setting of university life and decipher where they belong. There may be additional peer pressures in the form of substance use. Working students face financial and time constraints that add an extra layer of anxiety, and of course, every college student has the stress of homework, tests, and maintaining an acceptable GPA.

According to Dr. Michelle Weckmann, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, up to 40 percent of the student population she sees may be living with depression. Individuals heading off to college with a history of depression must learn to balance their condition with all of the external stressors that come with entering this rite of passage. Fortunately, there are ways for students to successfully manage the disease and help keep it at bay.

Weckmann offers the following recommendations to aid in combatting depression:

  1. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and maintain a steady exercise regimen.
  2. Get involved in a volunteer program. Helping others is a great way to avoid getting consumed with one’s own issues.
  3. Stay connected and build a network of people you can turn to for support if needed.

 

Depression is not uncommon and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. College can be a wonderful experience, even for the person living with depression. The key is to address symptoms as early as possible, and Family Guidance Center can help. For more information about depression or to set up an appointment with a mental health professional, contact Family Guidance Center.

Could You Identify Depression in Your Child?

Depression 4As parents, there are a host of ailments that we get concerned could impact our children. While pediatric depression might not be at the top of the list, it is a condition that can affect youngsters even from the tender age of three. Clinical psychologist, Deborah Serani, PsyD, shares some of her own experiences with childhood depression in her book entitled Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers.

In the book, Serani recalls retreating to a warm, quiet spot in the basement where she could escape everyone and unwind. Other kids dealing with depression, she says, might disappear to their rooms or other hiding spots to avoid contact with others. Experts caution that the disorder manifests itself quite differently in children than adults. Would you be able to spot these signs of pediatric depression?

• Lethargy and petulance
• Loss of interest in things or activities once important, such as play, school, or spending time with friends
• Bodily pains including headaches or stomach aches
• Feeling or expressing a sense of worthlessness or inability to do things “right”
• Sudden change in behavior, for example slipping grades

Ignoring your child’s symptoms of depression will not make the illness go away. Pediatric depression is real and does merit close attention. Here are some things you can do if you suspect your child might be affected by a mood disorder:

• Speak with your doctor. Your family physician can rule out any other illnesses and provide a referral to a mental health specialist if needed.

• Keep track of how long symptoms persist. Everybody has ups and downs, but periods of melancholy lasting longer than two weeks or symptoms negatively impacting other areas of daily life could be a sign of something more serious.

• Seek help early. A mental health professional can help identify signs that a mood disorder might be developing before it reaches a head. This can lead to interventions which minimize the impact of the disorder.

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. For years, Family Guidance Center has been a trusted provider of mental health services for both adults and children. To set up a screening or to learn more about pediatric depression, contact Family Guidance Center.

Overcoming Depression: Seeing Life Through a Different Set of Eyes

Anyone who thinks they are immune to experiencing depression does not understand the disease. While there are many life scenarios linked to depression, when sickness and disease strike, many people go through a time of depression. When he was diagnosed with keratoconus, an aggressive eye disorder that leads to progressive blindness, Olympic bobsledder, Steven Holcomb discovered firsthand that having a chronic physical illness can definitely take a toll on one’s mental health.Olympics 1

As his keratocconus worsened, Holcomb began to feel a distinct change in his personality. He started withdrawing from others and became overcome with depression. He tried various treatments, but to no avail. Eventually he memorized the vision test given to U.S. athletes because he didn’t want his teammates to discover just how bad his eyesight was, a discovery that might end his career.

According to Holcomb, it’s one thing to be born without sight but quite another to find yourself growing more and more blind each day. In 2007, his sight had deteriorated to a devastating level, and his depression got the best of him. He found himself secluded in a hotel room downing a deadly combination of whiskey and 73 sleeping pills. Despite his attempt at suicide, Holcomb woke up to see another day. It was in that moment he knew he was alive for a reason and had been instilled with a greater purpose.

After 12 years searching for a cure, in 2008, his efforts paid off. Holcomb stumbled upon Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler in Beverly  Hills who was able to surgically restore his sight to 20/20. Undergoing the innovative, new procedure allowed Holcomb to continue his career, and he even went on to win the gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Holcomb initially didn’t want to discuss his condition with anyone because he didn’t want to be perceived as weak. A true overcomer, he describes his life journey as “tough”, but “amazing”. As Holcomb’s story
proves, however, success lies in persistence, how we choose to view life’s tough situations, and reaching out to others for help when needed.

Every day, Family Guidance Center works with adults and children affected by depression and other mental illness. While mental illness isn’t something that is chosen, it doesn’t have to define the course of a person’s life. With support programs like that offered through Family Guidance Center, there is hope for a brighter future.

Do You Know the Long-Term Effects of Untreated Depression?

Depression 3There is a good chance you know someone who has experienced depression. It’s an illness that affects millions of Americans. To fully understand why treating depression is so important, consider the following list of long-term effects of untreated depression.

Long Term Mental Illness
Most bouts of depression are caused by an event that triggers feelings of sadness, such as the loss of a loved one. Feelings tend to return to normal after a couple days or weeks. But for those whose sadness lasts longer than a few weeks that go untreated by therapy or medications, depression can worsen. Chronic mental illness could develop, which is found to be difficult to treat. In some cases, untreated depression can develop into more severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder.

Withdrawal From Social Settings
Depression is caused by low levels of serotonin which is a chemical in the brain that is responsible for feelings of happiness and being social. When that chemical is off balance, it is not uncommon for people with depression to stay at home, miss several days off work and avoid social interaction as much as possible. This has a negative effect on both their financial stability as well as their emotional relationships.

Decline of Physical Health and Increased Chance of Death
According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, individuals with depression are four times more likely to have a heart attack over individuals without depression. They are also at a higher risk to experience a second heart attack or death. Also, studies have shown that having a mental illness such as depression drastically increases a person’s chance of attempting suicide. According to a study by the White House Conference on Mental Health, over two-thirds of suicides in the United   States are caused by depression.

If you or a loved one experience depression, it is important to seek treatment in order to avoid the long term effects of the disease. You can find the answers and help you need at Family Guidance Center, so call today.