Depression is the most common psychological problem teenagers have, with maybe 20% or even more, suffering at least one episode. But, happily, more often than not, one episode is all it will be.
However, for around 40% of teenagers who have early depression (by age 15), bouts of depression will recur again and again. These teenagers usually have a history of anxiety disorders, phobias or panic attacks, as well as poor social relationships.
Depression itself is usually triggered by stress — but not just any stress. Most often, the stressful events are at least partly caused by the person’s attitudes and behaviors (rather than being completely out of your control, such as a death in the family). In particular, they often involve relationships with other people (particularly for girls and women, who are twice as likely as males to experience depression). Most alarmingly, girls who had early and recurring bouts of depression are twice as likely to suffer severe physical abuse from a partner.
One of the most important factors that put a teenager at risk of depression is having a depressed parent. This doesn’t have to mean there’s a genetic risk. A big part of it is due to problems in the relationship with the parent. Unsurprising that being raised by a depressed parent can often create the sort of difficult situation that makes things harder for a child! Depression in a child is nearly always a sign that there is some problem in their life that they can’t deal with.
Unfortunately, having a parent around who can’t teach you good ways to deal with problems, sets you up to repeat their mistakes.
“Curing” depression is not simply a matter of “willing” yourself happy, particularly if your depression is produced by problems you don’t know how to deal with!
Unfortunately, depression in teens can often lead to suicidal thoughts. The following student video, The 17th Minute, is a graphic reminder of the chain that leads from loneliness to depression to suicide, and our responsibility to reach out before it gets that far.