Mental Health, Teen Depression

It seems that we are as unclear about mental illness as we are about gun control. Former New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, Jr. makes a profound statement as he pleads for America to "de-stigmatize" mental illness. “We only hear about mental illness when there is a school shooting,” he said. “Most are never going to do that, they’ll just suffer silently. Most people (battling mental illness) are not a risk to you or your family, they’re more a risk to themselves than anyone else. This generation wants to talk about this, they’re suffering and they’re tired of the shame and the shadows and the stigma.”

Today, I am thinking about the fact that it is estimated that one in five teens are clinically depressed. But only half ever get diagnosed. The clinical community suspects that the low diagnosis rate is because adults go overboard in trying to give teens the space they seem to demand. So, parents, teachers, and all adults need to find ways to interact with our teens. Here's an idea recommended by current psychiatrists at Columbia: "We should try to include a simple depression screening in annual school or sports exams." This is good because a simple self-report will do the trick. The common and popular screening questionnaire developed by the famous psychologist Aaron Beck can be found free online (Beck Depression Inventory). It has 20 questions, takes about 5 minutes to complete and can be scored on the spot. TAKE IT yourself and then try it with your teens. If you detect depression, consult with your pediatrician first. They can be a tremendous resource.

Thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics for setting a new protocol today for an assessment of depressive risks in kids beginning a 12 years. Why 12, that's when the puberty hormones start affecting us. Remember that time of your life. Wasn't it awful? Now imagine adding hunger, adoption, foster care, domestic violence etc. So, now we can get an earlier start on this. The issue now...getting access to medical care for all kids! Imagine that. Here we are back at that issue again. ACA? If you know kids, any doctor can get the protocol online to check depressive symptoms; encourage parents to request it for teens. Thanks for all of us!