Barriers in Recognizing Teen Depression
Wed, April 21, 2021

Barriers in Recognizing Teen Depression

The majority of parents in a new national poll said they are confident in knowing if their child has depression, but they also reported difficulties in doing so / Photo by: Karel Miragaya via 123RF

 

The majority of parents in a new national poll said they are confident in knowing if their child has depression, but they also reported difficulties in doing so. Findings of the poll, conducted by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan, indicate how critical depression is among parents and that it is no longer perceived as an abstract concept.

While depression is now familiar among many people including parents, there are still barriers in recognizing it among the youth—indicating a gap between having general knowledge about the signs and symptoms of the illness and actually pointing out the behavior patterns that suggest the possibility of depression.


Confident Parents

A significant percentage of the parents polled said they are either very confident (42 percent) or somewhat confident (48 percent) that they would be able to tell if their children are showing signs and symptoms of depression. They also said they are positive that their children can recognize the signs of depression among themselves (22 percent very confident, 50 percent somewhat confident).

Parents believe their child will seek their help if they are feeling depressed (39 percent very likely, 46 percent somewhat likely) or would talk to someone else (23 percent very likely, 46 percent somewhat likely) such as an adult family member/friend or one of their peers.

This confidence comes with the level of familiarity with depression and suicide that coincides with recent figures that indicate the increasing rates of suicide over the past decade. One in four parents in the poll said their child knows someone with depression while 1 in 10 parents say their teens know someone who committed suicide.

This confidence comes with the level of familiarity with depression and suicide that coincides with recent figures that indicate the increasing rates of suicide over the past decade / Photo by: freeograph via 123RF

 

However, this confidence falters in certain areas such as differentiating common signs and symptoms of depression with behavior patterns that indicate the likeness of depression. Signs and symptoms also vary from person to person where sadness or isolation could be an indicator for some while others exhibit anger, irritability, or acting out.

According to the poll report, two-thirds of the parents cited barriers that prevent them from recognizing depression in their child. These include:

• Difficulty in identifying normal ups and downs from depression (40 percent)
• Teens being good at hiding their feelings (30 percent)
• Not talking much about their feelings (14 percent)
• Not spending time with each other (7 percent)
• Uncertain about the signs of depression (4 percent)

Moreover, parents also feel that schools should do their part in screening children for depression and that these screenings should begin at middle school.

Dramatic Changes

How parents can recognize the signs of depression in their children depend on the child's temperament and their relationship with each other. Preteen and teen years may lead to significant changes in many families—both in the behavior of the teens and their dynamics with their parents.

"These transitions can make it particularly challenging to get a read on children's emotional state and whether there is possible depression," said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark, as per Medical Xpress, a web-based medical and health news service that features the most comprehensive coverage in the different fields of medicine.

But 35 percent of parents still believe nothing would interfere with their ability to identify the signs of depression in their teens.

Clark said some parents could be overestimating their ability to recognize depression symptoms, which could cause them to fail in recognizing the subtle signs. She added that it's important to stay vigilant when picking up signs of potential depression in their children and speak to them about identifying an adult they could turn to if they start feeling depressed.

"The good news is that parents view schools as a valuable partner in recognizing youth depression," the poll co-director said, although she noted that "too few schools have adequate resources to screen students for depression and to offer counsel to students who need it."

Medical Xpress reports that Clark encouraged parents to find out if the schools their children are going to offer depression screening and if counseling is available for students who screen positive.

Parents could stand as advocates for these efforts through meeting with school officials and talking about the importance of providing mental health services in schools, considering the fact that there are limited resources in most school districts.

Subtle Signs of Depression

The rising awareness in mental health has led to general knowledge about the signs and symptoms of various disorders. For depression, the common signs are feeling helplessness and guilt, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in pleasurable things, and fatigue among many others.

However, there are also hidden symptoms that are often overlooked and are easier to hide from others. This includes changes in weight and appetite, shifts in sleeping habits, and forced happiness. It's important to be familiar with these signs and determine if they are caused by depression or mere stress.

Being knowledgeable about the nature of mental illnesses is crucial to protect one's mental wellbeing, especially among the youth. That knowledge, however, should not come to the point where subtle hints are ignored.

For depression, the common signs are feeling helplessness and guilt, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in pleasurable things, and fatigue among many others / Photo by: Antonio Guillem via 123RF