Family Talk: Teen moodiness and depression
Last week we looked at the alarming rise in teen depression in suicide in America.
Remember? I told about the time my dad talked with me about why people commit suicide. He thought it was because they felt they had no one to talk to, and he wanted me to know I could always talk to him.
Remember? I wrote that Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein reported teen depression has almost doubled in the last decade, and 60 percent of those suffering never receive treatment. And Oklahoma is no better according to Tulsakids.com:
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in Oklahoma. An average of 76.5 people in this age group died by suicide every year ... In general, access to quality mental health care is a protective factor against suicide. In Oklahoma, mental health care ranks 45th in the United States.
Most kids experience moodiness in their teen years without being suicidal. How can you tell the difference between one of those “He's just going through a phase” times and occasions when your alarm bells should be going off?
To begin, adults need to be good students of teenagers. An article in the Miami Herald entitled "Teens Get Moody" suggests adults study up on teens by looking for:
1. Changes in sleeping habits.
2. Unusually poor school performance or complaints of headaches or stomachaches to miss school.
3. Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
4. Isolation from friends and family.
5. Irritability, anger outbursts, concentration problems.
6. Significant weight gain or weight loss.
7. Critical comments about themselves.
8. A recurring feeling of hopelessness
9. Attempts at self-injury.
10. Use of alcohol or drugs or promiscuous sexual activity.
When you notice some of these warning signs, you can try the QPR approach:
Question (Q), “Are you feeling depressed? or “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don't worry that by bringing up the question you'll “plant ideas” in their brain.
Listen first. Then, persuade (P) them to get help. “Will you go with me to see a counselor?”
Refer (R) the person to help. If possible, personally take the person to a mental health provider.
You can even become trained in QPR just like training in CPR. Check out https://qprinstitute.com/individual-training.
For adults wanting more specific direction on helping a moody teen, the Cleveland Clinic offers good suggestions on things to “encourage.”
1. Patience. Remind teens to be good to themselves and patient with treatment, which can take time.
2. Good habits. Daily exercise (even walking), going to bed on time, enjoying sunshine and nature, and making healthy food choices help to counter depression.
3. Openness. “Give teens the space to express their feelings honestly, without judgment. If you disagree with their decisions or actions, you can say, “I do not like that action, but I love you, and we'll work on this together.”
4. Activities. Make it easy for your teen to socialize and do activities with friends.
We often encourage our teens to be good students. With the rising incidence of depression and suicide, it's time for adults to be good students ... of their teens.
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at email@example.com.