Tustin Psychologist | Depression and Suicide Among Children and Adolescents

Tustin Psychologist | What exactly is depression, and how common is it?

As a Tustin Psychologist I find that depression is characterized by changes in mood, self-attitude, cognitive functioning, sleep, appetite, and energy level. Depression causes suffering, decreases quality of life, and causes impairment in social and occupational functioning (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008). Depression is further defined by the American Psychological Association as “a fluctuation in normal mood ranging from unhappiness and discontent to an extreme feeling of sadness, pessimism, and despondency” (APA, 2008). Recent studies have shown that in any 2-week period, 5.4% of Americans 12 years of age and older experienced depression. Depression in youth is a relapsing and remitting condition that will reoccur in over half of children and adolescents (Gordon, Tonge & Melvin, 2011).

Do children commit suicide?

Thoughts about, plans or attempts at suicide are among the symptoms of major depression and need to be assessed and treated by a professional. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, and it is the second leading cause of death among college students (Boesky, 2011).  If you think your child might be at risk for harming him or herself, seek the help of a professional as soon as possible.

What are the warning signs?

Look at the child’s physical appearance. Has it changed? You may see evidence of depression, such as a lack of interest in appearance, disturbed sleep patterns, a change in appetite accompanied by either weight gain or loss. They may seem to have lost interest in hobbies or activities they previously enjoyed. Teachers might report a significant change in their schoolwork or grades. The child may engage in activities such as giving away his or her possessions, withdrawing from friends, family, school, or their job. They may develop a preoccupation with death. Abrupt personality changes might be evident. Engaging is self-destructive or risky behavior might also be a sign that the child is thinking about suicide. Feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, or excessive guilt are also indicative of possible suicidal ideation.

Listen to what the child is saying. You might hear things like:

“I just can’t do anything right.”

“I just can’t take it anymore.”

“I wish I were dead.”

“Everyone will be better off without me.”

“All of my problems will end soon.”

“I wish I could just go to sleep and never wake up.”

Treatment

Seek the help of a professional. Psychologists are trained to assess for depression and suicide. Children and adolescents at imminent risk for suicide are typically hospitalized for safety and stabilization. Other times children are released to their family or other caregivers who are able to provide constant supervision and support to keep them safe. Caregivers agree to remove or secure all potentially dangerous items or substances from the home (guns, knives, prescription or over the counter medications, alcohol, etc.). Therapy by a licensed psychologist can help treat children and adolescents who are suffering from depression. If you think your child is at risk, get help today.

Dr. Lisa Schenitzki is a clinical psychologist specializing in individual, couples and family therapy, as a Tustin psychologist, I maintains a private practice in North Tustin, California. Visit her website: www.talk2drlisa.com for more information and to contact her today.

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