Depression is one of the deadliest diseases among adolescents, and it's on the rise in teenagers, according to new research.
For a new study published in the December 2016 issue of Pediatrics, researchers looked at data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health from 2005 to 2014 for kids ages 12-17 and young adults ages 18-25, and found that the number of major depressive episodes increased 37 percent, from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014, and from 8.8 percent to 9.6 percent among young adults.
Scary stuff! So what can we do to help? According to the study's lead author, Ramin Mojtabai, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, we can start by paying attention.
"Parents should be alert to changes in academic or social functioning, social withdrawal, long periods of sadness, frequent crying spells, anger outbursts and irritability, suicidal ideations or gestures, significant changes in appetite and weight, and significant changes in energy level," he told Parents.com.
In addition, Dr. Mojtabai says communication is key. "Parents should talk openly with their adolescent children about depression and have an open and accepting attitude concerning psychological problems," he told us. "These parental attitudes and behaviors could help children feel more comfortable disclosing their psychological problems.
And while mood swings are not uncommon in adolescence and often do not need any professional attention, Dr. Mojtabai says that if the depressive symptoms last a couple of weeks or longer, cause significant impairment in social and academic functioning, or are associated with recurrent suicidal ideations, then it may be time to seek professional help.
"In many cases, psychological treatments are as effective as medications in managing depression," he explained. "Some children would benefit from family therapy, which involves parents as well."