In light of the recent tragic death of Robin Williams we need to be more aware of our children’s mental health and substance use. According to Suicide Prevention Education Alliance (SPEA) for most teens, the transition from child to adult is exciting, rocky and awkward. Risk taking is a natural part of youth development. And, while most of our children survive the teen years relatively unscathed, there are some who make negative choices that permanently affect their future.
The report goes on to say it is difficult to recognize if your child is suffering from depression and using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one out of every five children suffers from some form of mental illness, most often depression. When our children hurt, they want something to make them feel better and their search could lead to drugs and alcohol.
However use of alcohol and drugs will not end the pain of depression and left untreated, your child’s illness can worsen. Studies show the earlier our children use substances to medicate themselves, the more likely they are to become addicted. This combination of chemical dependency and major depression is referred to as “co-occurring disorders.”
PARENTS SHOULD KNOW
Parents need to protect their child’s mental health as vigorously as they do their physical health. While depression can occur at any time, it happens most commonly during adolescence. And although half of all lifetime mental illness cases begin by age 14, only 20 percent of depressed children are treated by a professional. Left untreated, depression is likely to reoccur and become progressively more severe.
Use of chemicals may be linked to your child’s depression. To distinguish between normal teenage angst and behaviors alerting you to a more serious problem, watch for the following symptoms of depression—
• Persistent sadness or anxiety
• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
• Decline in school performance
• Feelings of hopelessness or desperation
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or shame
• Change in sleeping patterns
• Changes in appetite or weight
• Decreased energy and fatigue
• Restlessness and irritability or increased anger
• Inability to concentrate or make decisions
• Increased alcohol and/or drug use
• Thoughts of suicide or wishing to be dead
Parents whose children have five or more of these symptoms lasting at least two weeks should have them assessed by a mental health professional to determine if they have a depressive illness.
Contact SPEA at 216-464-3471 or visit their website