Understanding teen depression


WE, Fil-Am parents, uprooted ourselves and our families from the Philippines with the dream of giving our kids a better life than we had growing up back home.

All we wanted was for them to be happy and successful. But as we navigate our new life in America, many of our us would every now and then ask ourselves if we made the right decision, especially those who see their children struggle growing up in America.

The tragic story of Gabrielle Molina, the 12-year old Filipina from New York, who took her own life after being bullied in school and online, is but one of the many that Fil-Am families had to endure — the most painful loss of a child who committed suicide.

As we sympathize with the Molinas, we ask ourselves if such a tragedy could have been prevented. Deep inside, we struggle with our own complex feelings of fear, guilt, and worry for our own children.

The rat race life in America makes it even harder to look after our kids. But news like Gabrielle’s suicide forces us to assess where we are, and what we can do to help our precious children.

Allow me to share these helpful information as stated in HelpGuide.org — a website created to help avoid suicide in the family.

HelpGuide.org reminds us that the teenage years can be emotionally turbulent and stressful. Teenagers face pressures on a day-to-day, to fit in. Theystruggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt, and feelings of alienation. For some, this leads to suicide. Depression is also a major risk factor for teen suicide.

The website explains that other risk factors that come into play in teenage suicide include: childhood abuse, recent traumatic event, lack of a support network, availability of a gun, hostile social or school environment, exposure to other teen suicides.

How do we know our teen may be depressed? As I previously shared, below are the signs and symptoms:

– Sadness or hopelessness

– Irritability, anger, or hostility

– Tearfulness or frequent crying

– Withdrawal from friends and family

– Loss of interest in activities

– Changes in eating and sleeping habits

– Restlessness and agitation

– Feelings of worthlessness and guilt

– Lack of enthusiasm and motivation

– Fatigue or lack of energy

– Difficulty concentrating

– Thoughts of death or suicide

– Suicide warning signs in depressed teens

– Talking or joking about committing suicide

– Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”

– Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)

– Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide

– Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury

– Giving away prized possessions

– Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time

– Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry outlines these additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:

– Change in eating and sleeping habits

– Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities

– Violent or rebellious behavior, running away

– Drug and alcohol use

– Unusual neglect of personal appearance

– Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork

– Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.

– Not tolerating praise or rewards

If you suspect that your teenager is suffering from depression, HelpGuide.org urges you to speak up right away. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing in your teenager are signs/symptoms of a deeper problem.

The website stresses that whether or not that problem turns out to be depression, it still needs to be addressed — and the sooner the better.

In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your teenager. Let him or her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to share what he or she is going through.

Your teen may be reluctant to open up; he or she may be ashamed or afraid of being misunderstood. Depressed teens may also have a hard time expressing what they’re feeling.

HelpGuide.org explains points out that if your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression.

Tips for talking to a depressed teen

- Offer support. Let depressed teenagers know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.

- Be gentle but persistent. Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

- Listen without lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.

- Validate feelings.Don’t try to talk your teen out of his or her depression, even if his or her feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness he or she is feeling. If you don’t, he or she will feel like you don’t take his or her emotions seriously.

HelpGuide.org warns that depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away. If you see the warning signs, seek professional help.

If you suspect that a teenager you know is suicidal, take immediate action! For 24-hour suicide prevention and support in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800)273-TALK. (To be continued)

* * *

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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