Note:  If you are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts OR have struggled in the past, please take caution.  This post is intended to educate and increase awareness of depression and suicidal tendencies however may cause increased feelings in those suffering. 

Although news of deaths by suicide may not come across our televisions and/or computer screens on a daily basis, I’m concerned that the overall trend is increasing.  Over the past couple months, I have been reminded of the role mental illness plays in so many of our lives and the need for continued conversation and education in our communities.  Below are facts about suicide presented by Mental Health America:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals between 15-24 years old.
  • Each year approximately 45,000 people die by suicide.
  • There is one death by suicide for every 25 suicide attempts.
  • Individuals struggling with substance abuse are six times more likely to complete suicide.

It saddens me to think of the struggles and internal battles of a person at THAT point; that point where he believes that ending his life is the only way out.  In addition to the sadness, I’m flooded with emotions for the loved ones left behind; the significant other, children, parents, siblings, coworkers… so many people left with unanswered questions and regrets.

This post is intended solely for educational purposes.  It is ended to educate family, friends, and school administration on possible warning signs of depression as well as resources for help.  Other mental illnesses have the potential to trigger suicidal ideations and suicidal attempts however depression is believed to be the biggest cause.  According to Mental Health America, approximately 30%-70% of suicide victims suffer from depression or bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Depression in Children

  • Frequent sadness
  • Isolation
  • Withdrawal
  • Change in eating habits (increase and/or decrease)
  • Change in sleep patterns (increase and/or decrease)
  • Feelings of hopelessness/worthlessness
  • Low energy
  • Irritability
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts

Individuals suffering from depression may not present with all of the above symptoms.  Intensity and frequency of symptoms among individuals may also vary; therefore, if your child has demonstrated any of the above symptoms for an extended period of time, please seek guidance from a professional.  Early identification and intervention are key in treating depression.

Okay, my child has suffered from some of the above symptoms… WHAT NOW??

I want to start off my saying that you are NOT alone.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, more than one in seven teens experience depression in a given year.  Depression has also been found in children as young as 6 years of age.  For some, this may be difficult to grasp.

What do children have to be depressed about, you ask?!

Depression in children can result from a single factor or be the product of multiple!  Factors may include, but are not limited to, stress, peer pressure, learning disabilities, grief, abuse, trauma, and genetics.  Also, recent research has focused on the relationship between increased screen time (e.g. television, video games, cell phones) and depression in children.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 60% of children with depressive symptoms are not receiving treatment.  This may be due to the lack of education, resources, or denial of the symptoms.

If you have the slightest concern, start with your pediatrician!  Your pediatrician will be able to answer questions regarding concerns and rule out the possibility of a health-related issue.  Once a medical issue has been ruled out, your pediatrician will be able to provide a referral to a mental health professional for further evaluation.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, recommendations for treatment may vary.  A mental health professional may recommend psychotropic medication, counseling services, or a combination of both.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line.

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