Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Tag: teen depression

What to do about teen depression

I just wrote an article on teen depression that appeared in The Miami Herald.  For the article,  I interviewed Pamela Leal, the mother of Bailey Leal who committed suicide two years ago when she was only 17.  My conversation with Pam stayed with me for days.  It was clear to me that she not only loved her daughter, but expressed that love to her. Of course, there were signs that Bailey was depressed and suffering …but would any of us catch the signs?

Teen depression  and the increasing rates of teen suicide is SCARY! A study released in May tracking 32 children’s hospitals nationwide showed that admissions for suicidal behavior and serious self-harm among 5-to-17-year-olds more than doubled between 2008 and 2015. As Time Magazine notes: that’s just a tiny percentage of the kids who are experiencing major depression or anxiety or are hurting themselves in various ways, like cutting. Nationally, 17.7% of teens reported seriously considering attempting suicide in 2015, according to the CDC.

In interviewing sources for my article, something I learned from Graciela Jimenez, psychotherapist with the Care and Counseling Services for Baptist Health South Florida, stood out. She said it’s okay to ask your teen if he or she is thinking about suicide, if you see a sign. She said parents often are afraid to ask because they don’t want to put the idea in their child’s head, but it is better to address it, she said.

I encourage you to read my article and learn as much about the signs of teen depression as possible. If you are dealing with a mental health issue with your teen, please share your experiences and thoughts with other parents. This blog is an important place for parents to help each other.

Click here to link to my Miami Herald article.


Is Your Teen Daughter Cutting Herself?

One day, my daughter came home from school and told me her friend had cut herself.  My reaction was “she did what?” My daughter explained that her friend is “going through some stuff” and she had been cutting her arm, just enough to cause pain but not enough to cause serious harm.  After that first time, she has mentioned many other friends who cut themselves, telling me about it like it’s no big deal.

This self-harm trend is huge and most parents don’t even know it’s happening.

Growing up, I can’t remember ever considering cutting myself, nor do I remember hearing anyone else consider it. But today, cutting is a way some teens are coping with strong emotions, intense pressure, or relationship problems.  It’s a way for a teen to  let out what she is feeling inside. According to NDTV, self-harm is not a fashion fad, nor is it suicidal behavior. It is merely a coping mechanism and one in 12 teens have tried it

Where do teens learn about this? Believe it or not, there are dozens of YouTube “how to” cutting videos. 

The triggers are pretty much the same ones that have always caused teens trouble:

  • Depression,
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Complicated relationships
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Stress and emotional burden

Today, the first of March is marked as Self-Injury Awareness Day. An orange ribbon is commonly associated with this campaign.





If you’re a parent who has seen signs that your teen is self injuring, this book could be a resource for you,   A Caregiver’s Guide to Self-injury.  So could these fact sheets with dos and don’ts for approaching your teen about it.










If you suspect your teen has inflicted self-injury — bruises, scratches, cuts– it’s a great opportunity to have a conversation about it. This is definitely not a rare phenomenon so if you’re suspicious, use today to do something about it. You can follow the conversation on Twitter at #SIAD.

This is a powerful video made by a teen who talks about her personal experience with cutting

I’m Devastated by Teen Boys Committing Suicide

Yesterday, when I heard a teenage boy at University of Florida appeared to have committed suicide, I was devastated. How sad that a young man could feel hopeless enough to take his life!

My nephews, who knew this boy well, are grief stricken. This boy was close with his younger brother, belonged to a fraternity, had lots of friends and  played on the university’s hockey team. Through an outside observer’s eyes, he seemed to be living an ideal life.

When I was in high school — a school with about 2,500 students — I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even in my college years, suicide among the teens was a very unusual event that I rarely heard of.

Yet, in the last year, two teenage boys with whom I have a connection have committed suicide and I regularly hear of others in cities across the U.S.  This morning, I stumbled onto a website with a post by Mark Gregston , founder and executive director of Heartlight, a residential counseling program for struggling adolescents.  He gave these statistics:  Before the 1960’s, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Gregston explains that between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

For the last 24 hours I am consumed with this horror. I’m scared for our teens and for parents who aren’t sure  how to avert this sad scenario.

Ask any parent and they will tell you that the pressure on teens today is much greater than it was when they went to high school. The pressure to achieve academically, socially and athletically has reached crazy levels and our kids are paying the price. Combine that pressure with the angst from social media and we have created a society of highly anxious and often depressed teenagers who are flooding campus counseling centers looking for ways to cope.

How does suicide happen? Gregston says teens who feel pain and despair don’t see the bigger picture; they only see the “right now.” They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment.  When you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day. They react on suicidal thoughts without thinking it through.

As a mother of a son in college who doesn’t communicate well with me, I worry.

So, what can we as parents do?

Gregston says we can talk to our teens when we see any signs of trouble and encourage them to seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional.

Here are some more of his recommendations:

  • If you ever hear your teen say, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take such statements seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Don’t walk away. Don’t wait.  Get them to a hospital or counselor immediately, even if they don’t want to go or say they were just fooling with you.
  • If you see mild warning signs, ask your teen if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide.
  • Get them to commit to you that if they ever do have those thoughts, they’ll let you or someone else know.
  • If your teen confides in you their loss of hope or control of their life, show that you take those concerns seriously.
  • Recognize that a depressed teen generally doesn’t have the ability or strength to solve their own depression.
  • Listen to your teen and try not to be judgemental or accusing. Being a teenager is hard today and your child is justified in their feelings, even if you may not agree or understand. When you realize this, you can help your child.
  • Remain in contact; even if you no longer have any control over your teen’s life. It can make all the difference.

Parents whose children are suffering from anxiety often feel embarrassed or don’t want to talk about it with other people. The reality is more parents are dealing with this than you realize.

Also, I feel like it is increasingly important to talk to our teens about how to respond if they have a friend who suffers from anxiety or depression.  Their reaction in a situation can be just as critical to how it plays out.

When a teen commits suicide, the entire community grieves. Yet, we aren’t making enough headway in preventing this tragedy. What are your thoughts on the increasing rate of teen suicide? Is it too late to dial down the pressure on teens? What do you think can be done?

Teen suicide has become rampant. I’m scared.

teen suicide


From every direction lately, I hear about teen suicide. First, I read about two high school girls, both popular soccer players, who killed themselves just days apart. One may have killed herself because she felt guilty for not preventing the other from taking her life.

Today, I read about Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge, a 22-year-old lineman and wrestler who was found dead in a dumpster blocks away from his apartment with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Karageorge’s mother, Susan Karageorge, had previously told a TV station that her son suffered from concussions, and that he had sent her a text shortly before he went missing in which he apologized for being an “embarrassment” as a result of the medical condition.

“I wish you could’ve talked to me if you were struggling,”Johnni Dijulius, one of Karageorge’s teammates on the wrestling team told NBC News. “I love you to death and I hope that you found peace and you’re happy.”

As I read more and more about teen suicide, I’m scared. What’s going on with our teens and young adults?

The rate of teen suicide has been rising during the past few years, according to a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also found 1 in 12 high school students reported having attempted suicide.

Are we raising teens that feel lonely, disconnected and misunderstood? What should we be doing differently?

Recently, during a fight in my son’s school cafeteria, the teens all reached for their phones to video it. Not one, called for help. Are we raising teens who try to capture the moment digitally rather than step in physically to prevent hurt feelings, broken bones or worse — suicide? Have you had a conversation with your teen lately about coming to you if he or she feels suicidal or believes a friend might be?

Teens, like everyone else, need to feel like someone gets them. They want to be understood. Obviously, we’re not doing enough to help them feel that way.

Clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg rightfully asks: “Why are so many teens giving up so quickly?” I have to wonder the same…..

Is social media to blame? Are violent video games the problem? Could peer pressure have reached a new level? Are we relying too much on medication rather than conversation?

Why do you think teen suicide is on the uptick and what do you think parents can do about it?

Important to treat your child’s depression

According to the FDA, we must not let childhood depression go untreated. I read the article below and felt it was important to share it. My daughter suffers from mental illness and depression is one of them. Denial isn’t going to help her, but treatment is going to help. This article below hit close to home for me and I felt it probably would for many other parents, too.  Enjoy the read. Hope it helps.


Every psychological disorder, including depression, has some behavioral components.

Depressed children often lack energy and enthusiasm. They become withdrawn, irritable and sulky. They may feel sad, anxious and restless. They may have problems in school, and frequently lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Some parents might think that medication is the solution for depression-related problem behaviors. In fact, that’s not the case. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any drugs solely for the treatment of “behavior problems.” When FDA approves a drug for depression—whether for adults or children—it’s to treat the illness, not the behavior associated with it.

“There are multiple parts to mental illness, and the symptoms are usually what drug companies study and what parents worry about. But it’s rare for us at FDA to target just one part of the illness,” says Mitchell Mathis, M.D., a psychiatrist who is the Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

The first step to treating depression is to get a professional diagnosis; most children who are moody, grouchy or feel that they are misunderstood are not depressed and don’t need any drugs.

Only about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Before puberty, girls and boys have the same incidence of depression. After adolescence, girls are twice as likely to have depression as boys. The trend continues until after menopause. “That’s a clue that depression might be hormonal, but so far, scientists haven’t found out exactly how hormones affect the brain,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Tiffany R. Farchione, M.D., the Acting Deputy Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

It’s hard to tell if a child is depressed or going through a difficult time because the signs and symptoms of depression change as children grow and their brains develop. Also, it can take time to get a correct diagnosis because doctors might be getting just a snapshot of what’s going on with the young patient.

“In psychiatry, it’s easier to take care of adults because you have a lifetime of patient experience to draw from, and patterns are more obvious” says Mathis. “With kids, you don’t have that information. Because we don’t like to label kids with lifelong disorders, we first look for any other reason for those symptoms. And if we diagnose depression, we assess the severity before treating the patient with medications.”

Getting the Proper Care

The second step is to decide on a treatment course, which depends on the severity of the illness and its impact on the child’s life. Treatments for depression often include psychotherapy and medication. FDA has approved two drugs—fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro)—to treat depression in children. Prozac is approved for ages 8 and older; Lexapro for kids 12 and older.

“We need more pediatric studies because many antidepressants approved for adults have not been proven to work in kids,” Farchione says. “When we find a treatment that has been shown to work in kids, we’re encouraged because that drug can have a big impact on a child who doesn’t have many medication treatment options.”

FDA requires that all antidepressants include a boxed warning about the increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults up to age 24. “All of these medicines work in the brain and the central nervous system, so there are risks. Patients and their doctors have to weigh those risks against the benefits,” Mathis says.

Depression can lead to suicide. Children who take antidepressants might have more suicidal thoughts, which is why the labeling includes a boxed warning on all antidepressants. But the boxed warning does not say not to treat children, just to be aware of, and to monitor them for, signs of suicidality.

“A lot of kids respond very well to drugs. Oftentimes, young people can stop taking the medication after a period of stability, because some of these illnesses are not a chronic disorder like a major depression,” Mathis adds. “There are many things that help young psychiatric patients get better, and drugs are just one of them.”

It’s important that patients and their doctors work together to taper off the medications. Abruptly stopping a treatment without gradually reducing the dose might lead to problems, such as mood disturbance, agitation and irritability.

Depression in children shouldn’t be left untreated. Untreated acute depression may get better on its own, but it relapses and the patient is not cured. Real improvement can take six months or more, and may not be complete without treatment. And the earlier the treatment starts, the better the outcome.

“Kids just don’t have time to leave their depression untreated,” Farchione says. “The social and educational consequences of a lengthy recovery are huge. They could fail a grade. They could lose all of their friends.”

Medications help patients recover sooner and more completely.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

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