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The Teenage Depression Epidemic

Jan 13, 2008
Being a teenager into today's society isn't easy. While they seem to have the best of everything, with the opportunities the generations preceding them would have loved, they are also carrying a large burden of peer pressure. There's a degree of cultural expectation which means that in order to fit in, you must comply with certain social rules.

Fitting in is never more important in life than it is during the teen years, especially those years in early to mid-teens when being accepted by the in-crowd is the objective of almost everyone in the school. Very few teens are happy to go it alone and face school life independently. Those who do are often ignored and even ridiculed by the others. Those who choose to be an outsider do so at their peril, but don't care much about what the others think, but those who end up on the outside of the social cliques because they don't have the right clothes, excel at the right sports, or stand out in some other way that the popular kids deem negative have a tough time during this time of their lives.

Teenage depression doesn't just hit the so-called un-cool kids however. There are also those teens who feel that no matter how much they try, they never seem to live up to their parent's expectations. They often act out, and skip classes because they don't think that they'll ever be good enough and so they don't bother. In some cases, this can be as much a sign of depression as a child who spends all of their time hiding away in their room.

There are some signs of teenage depression that parents should be aware of and watch out for. Some of these may be thought of as "normal teen behavior", but if there are a number of these symptoms happening in your teen, then you need to consider if there's something more sinister going on than "just a stage they're going through". Look out for the following:

- Little or no energy. Teens are notorious for wanting to sleep and nap, but this can also be a sign that your child has no interest in doing anything with their life and so prefers to sleep.

- Has an attitude problem either at home, or school, or both. This could be in terms of anger or silence and creates a hostile atmosphere.

- Losing interest in things they used to love to do, and/or usually bored.

- No real focus on anything.

- Self-mutilation/suicide attempts/life threatening sports or situations.

Just asking your teen as to whether they're feeling depressed or not will end up with you facing even more hostility. They aren't likely to open up to you that easily. Instead you're going to have to be vigilant about their behavior, and watch for significant changes in behavioral patterns. Investigate what's happening in their lives as quietly as possible so that they don't think you're prying or don't trust them. Reassure them that they can talk to you about anything, and mean it!

If you find that your teen is depressed, don't shrug it off. It can go from bad to worse within hours depending on the source of the depression. Instead make an appointment and talk to a counselor yourself, and then see if they agree that it's in your teen's best interests to also talk to them. Your child may not be receptive to this course of action, so taking the initiative to talk to the counselor alone first will allow you to talk to them about the situation and how best to approach it, especially if your child refuses to talk to the professional.

Many teens find that once they get out of the competitive school environment, they are able to shake the depression and move forward with their lives. Others live in the shadow of teen depression for a large part of their lives. Try to ensure that your child is able to leave the depression behind by being supportive and understanding of how they feel.

Teen depression isn't rare, and it's becoming increasingly common as the peer pressure trend grows. If you suspect that your teen is depressed, or being coming depressed, check out your yellow pages for a support group that helps parents with troubled teens. You should find that you're not alone dealing with this problem, and may even find ways of tackling it that you haven't thought of.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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