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Rebecca Hagelin / Jan. 19, 2010

Teenage Depression

You would think that teenagers growing up in the most prosperous society in history would be abundantly joyful. Even in these economic days of woe, teenagers spend an estimated 200 billion dollars a year on trinkets, toys, music and the latest fashions. My goodness, compared to the rest of the world our teenagers live like royalty.

Yet, recent studies show that the rate of teenage depression and mental illness is at an all-time high. And while the general incidence of suicide has decreased in the United States in the past 25 years, it has tripled among young people ages 15 to 24. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents.

A recent study led by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge reports that compared to high school and college students in the Great Depression era, there are five times as many youth today that suffer from anxiety and mental health issues.

The causes of depression and anxiety can range from a genetic predisposition to a variety of illnesses. And, a pop culture filled with empty messages of “love em and leave em”, a devaluation of human life, the fact that 40 percent of children live in a broken home and an emphasis on materialism is enough to make even the healthiest child wonder if her life really matters. The harsh reality is that children from broken homes are five times more likely to commit suicide than their peers from intact families.

Our pop culture is preoccupied with “liberating” children and teens from their parents, churches and traditional morality - the three anchors which contribute to the development of healthy minds and spirits. They have been replaced with the rampant promotion of pornography, a doctrine of sexual experimentation, and a self-centered view of the world as evidenced by parents who think nothing of destroying a child’s world and heart through divorce. Even teens from healthy homes are often afraid to enter the world on their own with all of its ills.

Our children are crying – literally – for a change.

Real depression and brain disorders are serious illnesses which must be taken just as seriously. The worst thing you as a parent can do if you suspect that your child is suffering from what still remains the most stigmatized of human conditions is to ignore him or tell your child to “just snap out of it”.

It’s incredibly disturbing that in this beautiful nation with all of our blessings and the wonders of medical science that people – both adults and teens - with mental illnesses are often afraid to seek treatment. Ignorance, public scorn, and a health system that doesn’t seem to recognize the need for robust mental health services are a blight on America.

If you suspect that your child is plagued by depression, find out for certain. Whether due to a genetic condition or the emptiness of our culture, such suffering requires help - and human decency demands it.

Know the signs. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (www.NAMI.org), indicators of depression include:

• feeling persistently sad or blue;
• talking about suicide or being better off dead;
• becoming suddenly much more irritable;
• having a marked deterioration in school or home functioning;
• reporting persistent physical complaints and/or making many visits to school nurses;
• failing to engage in previously pleasurable activities or interactions with friends; and
• abusing substances.

The brain is a complex organ, still shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that a brain can fall ill just as easily as a heart, or a lung, or a blood system. Medical professionals will tell you that treatment options are vast and include psychotherapy as well as medicines. What they often don’t include, however, is the critical component of spiritual counseling. The most successful treatments are comprehensive in nature and minister to the body, mind, emotions and spirit. To get help for your child, start by looking into the life-giving resources available at www.meierclinics.com.

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