By Vanita Halliburton | Contributor
We have all heard the saying: “The grass on the other side of the fence is always greener.” Though we know better, we sometimes believe that other families in the parenting department are better off than we are. We can convince ourselves that other parents used this time of social distancing to prepare delicious family meals every evening, to have a meaningful heart with their teenagers and to teach them important life lessons. When we look into their houses through pink windows, we see better-adapted, more efficient, more problem-free and perfectly dazed children who glide happily through their youth to become exemplary teenagers and successful young adults.
We have to get over this thought. It is simply not true. The statistics show that one in five adolescents has a diagnosable mental disorder and about one in three adolescents has clear symptoms of depression. However, the majority do not seek treatment, often because the symptoms are not recognized and undiagnosed. During this pandemic, our children face additional stress and it is more important than ever to understand these symptoms and learn how you can help your child.
If you’re still thinking of this greener grass, look around your neighborhood and consider the following: Every fifth family has a teenager who is depressed, anxious, self-injurious, self-medicated with alcohol or drugs, or behaviors such as anger, aggression or Retreat. Statistically, every classroom in your teenage school has five or six students with symptoms of depression.
If left untreated, mental health problems can lead to other problems, such as poor grades, conflicts with family and friends, substance abuse, broken relationships, or problems with the law. It can also pose an increased risk of suicide for a child, which is the second leading cause of teenage death in Texas.
It actually makes sense. When a person is not feeling well – be it flu, clinical depression, or debilitating anxiety – their ability to get through everyday life is compromised. Everything is a struggle, from performing the simplest tasks to the challenging roles of the school and relationships.
Here’s another statistic to think about: About half of all psychiatric illnesses begin before age 14. There is an average of nine years between the onset of symptoms and the start of treatment. This is too long Failure to see and respond to symptoms of psychological stress can deprive our children and young people of their health and impair their wellbeing in the years in which so much important development and learning take place.
We can do better. First, we can learn to recognize the symptoms of a mental or emotional disorder as quickly as we recognize the signs of an oncoming cold. Common symptoms of depression include persistent irritability, sadness, anger or social withdrawal, as well as major changes in appetite or sleep. Children who are depressed can be overwhelmed or exhausted. You can stop participating in activities that you used to enjoy. Other possible symptoms include chronic pain, headache, or abdominal pain.
When we see such changes, it’s tempting to bring them to the typical teenage mood or blame hormones. However, it is far wiser to consider the possibility of something else happening and have it checked. As with any other disease, it is important that you have it examined by a qualified professional.
Unfortunately, the mental health stigma keeps some adolescents and their families from seeking help. This is a shame because depression is very treatable. Most people with depression can be treated effectively with medication, therapy, or a combination of both. Many mental health service providers are making treatment more accessible by offering telemedicine options that can remove some of the barriers to accessing help.
Treating a mental disorder – especially as soon as symptoms appear – can reduce the impact on an adolescent’s life and provide tools to help him cope with the stress and pressure of life.
Here is the truth about green grass. Every lawn sometimes gets weeds and brown spots. With proper care, these problems can be resolved and the grass returned to its natural, healthy state. We should do it so well with our kids.
Learn more about adolescent mental health and suicide prevention at granthalliburton.org.
How can I tell if my child is depressed?
Do you know the symptoms.
It is normal for teenagers and young adults to sometimes feel depressed or moody. But if these feelings last for weeks, it could mean something more serious is going on. Depression is very common – in fact, it affects more than 2 million young people. Here’s a list of what symptoms can look like in a teenager:
- You are sad or cry a lot and it does not go away.
- You feel guilty for no real reason; You don’t feel well. You have lost your trust.
- Life seems meaningless or as if nothing good ever happens again.
- You have a negative attitude most of the time, or it seems that you have no feelings.
- You don’t feel like doing a lot of things you used to enjoy – like music, sports, going out with friends – and want to be alone most of the time.
- It is difficult to make a decision. You forget a lot of things and it is difficult to concentrate.
- They are often irritated. Little things make you lose control; you overreact.
- Your sleep pattern changes; you sleep a lot more or a lot less than before.
- Eating habits change; You have lost your appetite or are eating a lot more.
- They use drugs or alcohol to deal with it.
- You get pain that doesn’t go away.
- You feel restless and tired most of the time.
- They think of death or feel dying. You have thoughts about suicide.
Know what to do.
- Seek professional help. Don’t wait for the depression to improve.
- See a doctor who can look for physical illnesses that can cause depression symptoms.
- Understand the treatment. What works best in most cases is medication or therapy, or both. Therapy can help a person find better ways to solve problems and change negative thoughts.
- Stick to the plan. Do not miss therapy sessions and do not stop taking medication without speaking to the doctor.
- Stay healthy. Eat properly, exercise and sleep enough.
- Participate in positive activities.
- Keep a diary of feelings to identify triggers and effective treatments for depression.
- Tell someone if you feel suicidal. Call 800-273-8255 to speak to a qualified, trained advisor near you.
Do you need help now?
If you or someone you know think of suicide or self-harm:
Dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room
National lifeline for suicide prevention
Crisis text line
Text HELP to 741741
The Trevor Project Helpline for LGBTQ + youth
If you’re looking for mental health resources:
Here for Texas Mental Health navigation line
A free Grant Halliburton Foundation service, Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm. Help people of all ages find mental health and addiction resources, including telemedicine options. Support in Spanish language available.
A website developed by the Grant Halliburton Foundation with a wealth of information on mental health issues, resources in North Texas and professionals.
Pandemic resources granthalliburton.org/pandemicresources
Information about the virus, mental health websites, helplines, articles and mini-lessons created by the foundation to deal with stress and other challenges during this time.
Selecting the Grant Halliburton Foundation for additional websites, podcasts, apps and crisis lines that are relevant and safe for young people.
About the Grant Halliburton Foundation
The Grant Halliburton Foundation was founded in 2006 to commemorate a Dallas teenager who fought depression and bipolar disorder for several years before suicide at the age of 19. The foundation that bears his name helps families and young people to recognize the signs of mental illness through a variety of ways, including education, conferences, collaboration, and encouragement. The foundation provides more than 49,000 students, educators, parents and professionals with education, training and support in the field of mental health every year. Find out more at GrantHalliburton.org.
ABOUT VANITA HALLIBURTON:
Vanita is a co-founder and CEO of the Grant Halliburton Foundation, which was founded in 2006 after the suicide of her son Grant Halliburton. She regularly lectures on adolescent mental health and suicide prevention and speaks heartily about her son’s fight against depression and bipolar disorder, his suicide at age 19, and the need for a collaborative approach to suicide prevention in our community.
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