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  • Tasha Schuh

Mental Health Awareness Series: Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Youth

If you did not know, May is mental health awareness month. Doug and I recently attended a Mental Health First Aid course for youth, as we are very passionate about speaking at schools and want to be better equipped to reach the students that we are speaking to. It so important that we all endeavor to understand mental health; especially for the youth in our lives. Whether you are a youth, or work with youth on a regular basis, it is imperative that we talk about mental health awareness. Youth and young adults go through many changes during adolescent development: physical changes, mental changes, social changes, and emotional changes. Youth often do not seek professional help on their own and sometimes need an adult to step in to facilitate help. I’m very passionate about this because I have seen the aftermath of youth not getting the help that they need and it ties into what we are doing with the PITCrew movement and the messages that I give in the schools. For this first message in this series, I want to give some ideas of what to look for and what I think is important in the mental health world when it comes to youth.

Signs and symptoms that youth are struggling with depression:

Symptoms of depression:

  • An unusually sad mood

  • Loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that were previously enjoyable

  • Lack of energy and tiredness

  • Feeling worthless or guilty when they are not really at fault

  • Thinking about death or wishing to be dead

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Moving more slowly or sometimes becoming agitated and unable to settle

  • Having sleeping difficulties or sleeping too much

  • Loss of interest in food or sometimes eating too much

  • Changing in eating habits, which may lead to either weight loss or weight gain

At home young people may:

  • Complain of tiredness, even if they are sleeping more than usual

  • Having difficulty doing household chores, either forgetting to do them or not doing them thoroughly

  • Withdraw from family, spending a great amount of time in their bedroom

  • Snap at family members, behave irritably, or pick fights with parents or siblings

  • Avoid discussing important future events, such as decisions about further education or work opportunities

In school young people may:

  • Show a decline in school grades because they do not compete work, do not do as good a job as they used to do, or miss school

  • Fail to engage in classroom discussions or struggle to understand and communicate

  • Snap at or start fights with other students or engage in vandalism

  • Struggle to work effectively in the morning, but do better in late afternoon classes

  • These symptoms can all have an impact on school achievement. Some may result in disciplinary responses. Teachers may also notice that a student chooses topics such as depression, suicide, or self-injury to write about in health or social science classes or as the subject for creative writing or art

In a social setting, young people may:

  • Avoid spending time with friends altogether

  • Spend more time with friends who appear to be depressed as well

  • Become ostracized from their usual social group, either because they continually refuse invitations or friends find the individual difficult to spend time with

  • Use alcohol or other drugs to deal with emotional symptoms

  • Many of the major symptoms of depression in youth and adults are also symptoms of depression in very young children. Children younger than age 12 with depression may show aggressive behaviors, be more fearful of new people and challenges, or show delays or regression in important developmental milestones

In the next blog, I am going to give suggestions and resources for how to get help for youth suffering with depression. Please feel free to comment on other things you would like me to cover this month. This is an area that needs to be discussed and talked about so we can break the stigma.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Work Cited:

Mental Health First Aid USA: for Adults Assisting Young People. National Council for Behavioral Health, 2016.

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