Teen depression is a topic that is rarely talked about in the African American community. It is more than just a case of the blues. Teen depression can affect everything that a child does from showering, to eating, to just interacting with his or her peers. Many teens with depression later go on to be diagnosed with other things. So today I sit down to write the hard truth about my own child. My 13-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with Mood Disorder NOS. It is often like walking on eggshells in my house. I never know what child I am getting when I pick her up from school. I never know what child is sitting in my living room and which child to approach. We have a series of good days and then we have one really bad day that sets back all the work that has been done.
Two percent of school-aged children have major depression at any time and with the onset of puberty, that number increases to four percent. Girls have a higher rate of diagnosis than boys and for girls it may continue into adulthood. Overall, twenty percent of children and teens have one episode of major depression before they become adults. Sixteen percent of African American’s as a whole are less likely to get treatment for depression as compared to their Caucasian counterparts at twenty four percent. The most staggering number is that 2.5 Million African American’s suffer from bipolar disorder and twenty six percent of African American’s that were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder were likely to get treatment.
So you must ask why am I writing this? I am writing this to raise awareness. I have suffered from depression. In my community, the African American community, it is viewed as being crazy if you take meds. Well I have news for folks; it’s not crazy to take meds to combat depression. In my mid twenties, the stigma that I felt when I first told my family about my depression during my difficult divorce years, I was told, “We always knew you were crazy.” or “You better pray about it”. You know those words stick with a person. Those words stay with a person for the rest of their lives and will change their perception about whether or not they have family support with what they are dealing with because the response is never one of understanding and new flash, I prayed to feel better, I prayed that it would go away, but the more I spiraled and recognized that I needed help. Depression is serious. If left untreated, it can affect a person’s entire life and the way that they function.
So I mentioned my daughter before. It is hard for people to understand that over a year, she has changed drastically. She admits that she is not the person that she used to be. With the onset of teenaged angst combined with the pressures to fit in, issues with her father and his family, and girl drama, my daughter, whom I love to pieces has a lot to deal with that she takes on her shoulders and she often lashes out at the wrong people. She is often angry with the wrong people. The people whom her anger is directed at are not here. She doesn’t see them every day; yet, she does not know how to deal with her anger and her sadness and feelings of being cast off. Life is a struggle for her every day. It is a struggle for her often to just walk back into my door at the end of the day some days. So I write this to say, depression is real. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Left untreated, it can fester and erode a person, a family. Intervention is needed as soon as you recognize the signs and symptoms and turning a blind eye to it will not make it go away. I know I’m not a celebrity; I’m just a mom that lives with children that and my daughter struggles with her day to day and I recognize that she needs MY help, even when she does not want it. We as parents often reach out to our parents and other family members to deal with the struggles, but it takes more than that. Serious depression requires professionals as well as family support. So to all of my families out there, no matter the race, take depression seriously. I am including a short list signs and symptoms of depression in teens because there are so many more. Be aware of them and know that it is more than just a case of being sad.
- Complaints of pains, including headaches, stomachaches, low back pain, or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Irresponsible behavior — for example, forgetting obligations, being late for classes, skipping school
- Loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain
- Memory loss
- Preoccupation with death and dying
- Rebellious behavior
- Sadness, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness
- Staying awake at night and sleeping during the day
- Sudden drop in grades
- Use of alcohol or drugs and promiscuous sexual activity
- Withdrawal from friends
*Some content provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.