Major Depression in Adolescence: Suicide Prevention

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Friday, May 25, 2018
By Mirta Pont, LCSW,

Certified EMDR Therapist

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14 and the second among persons aged 15-34 years. A precedent to suicide is depression. Factors causing depression vary. They range from genetics, environmental, hormonal/biological and traumatic events. Many parents wonder if their teen is really depressed or is it just “adolescent growing pains?”

If a parent suspects that their teen is depressed, they must take action. It is always better to err on the side of safety than deny there may be a problem. Attending therapy and medically assessing/treating the problem can not only help the teen feel better but often will prevent a possible suicide attempt.

Here are some warning signs that a teenager may be depressed:

  • Change in appetite/weight (either a marked increase or decrease)
  • Change in sleeping habits (insomnia or sleeping too much)
  • Loss of interest in activities or things the teen used to enjoy
  • Isolation
  • Decrease in energy or fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness/inappropriate guilt
  • Can’t see the glass half full or excessive negativity
  • Anger and/or irritability
  • Recurring thoughts of death, suicidal gestures, cutting
These symptoms may occur periodically throughout adolescence; however, according to the DSM-5 (the psychiatric diagnostic classification manual), the problem is when at least 5 of these 9 are occurring simultaneously or are present nearly every day.

On a more serious level, acting out behavior such as self-injury, skipping school, chronic academic failure, experimenting with drugs and anti-social behavior are elevated signs of depression and immediate and intense intervention is necessary.

Self-harm is any kind of act used to inflict physical pain to numb or fade away emotional pain. Self-injurious behavior can be seen as a precursor for risk of suicide. This involves but is not limited to cutting, hair pulling, burning and other self-inflicting pain methods.

Some Facts

Among students in grades 9-12 in the U.S. during 2013:4

17.0% of students seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months (22.4% of females and 11.6% of males).
13.6% of students made a plan about how they would attempt suicide in the previous 12 months (16.9% of females and 10.3% of males).
8.0% of students attempted suicide one or more times in the previous 12 months (10.6% of females and 5.4% of males).
2.7% of students made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that required medical attention (3.6% of females and 1.8% of males). (Facts at a  2015)

Thought for the day: 
Everything passes – just hang on.