By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools
Sure, everybody feels sad or blue now and then. But if your child is sad most of the time, and it's giving him or her problems with grades or attendance at school, relationships with family and friends, alcohol, drugs, or sex, or controlling behavior in other ways, the problem may be depression.
The good news is that you can get treatment for your child and help him or her feel better soon. About 4 percent of adolescents get seriously depressed each year. Clinical depression is a serious illness that can affect anybody, including teenagers. It can affect thoughts, feelings, behavior and overall health.
Most people with depression can be helped with treatment. But a majority of depressed people never get the help they need. And, when depression isn't treated, it can get worse, last longer, and prevent teens from getting the most out of this important time in their lives.
Here's how to tell if your child might be depressed.
First, there are two kinds of depressive illness: the sad kind, called major depression, and manic-depression or bipolar disorder, when feeling down and depressed alternates with being speeded up and sometimes reckless.
Your child should be evaluated by a professional if he or she has had five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, or if any of these symptoms cause such big changes that your child can't keep up his or her usual routine.
When teens are depressed:
They feel sad or cry a lot and it doesn't go away.
They feel guilty for no reason, feel like they're no good, or lose their confidence.
Life seems meaningless or like nothing good is ever going to happen again. They have a negative attitude a lot of the time, or it seems like they have no feelings.
They don't feel like doing a lot of the things they used to like - like music, sports, being with friends, going out - and they want to be left alone most of the time.
They forget a lot of things and have trouble concentrating.
They get irritated often. Little things make them lose their temper; they overreact.
Their sleep patterns change; they start sleeping a lot more or have trouble falling asleep at night. Or they wake up really early most mornings and can't get back to sleep.
Their eating patterns change.
They feel restless and tired most of the time.
When teens are manic:
They feel high as a kite, like they're on top of the world.
They get unreal ideas about the great things they can do, things that they really can't do.
They're a nonstop party, constantly running around.
They do too many wild or risky things, with driving, with spending money, with sex, etc.
They're so "up" that they don't need much sleep.
They're rebellious or irritable and can't get along at home or school, or with their friends.
If you are concerned about depression in your child, talk to someone about it. There are people who can help you get treatment. If you don't know where to turn, try calling the psychology department at Northern Montana Medical Group at 262-1780.
Depression can affect people of any age, race, ethnic or economic group. Having depression doesn't mean that people are weak, or a failure, or aren't really trying. It means they need treatment. Most people with depression can be helped with psychotherapy, medicine, or both together.
Short-term psychotherapy means talking about feelings with a trained professional who can help the patient change the relationships, thoughts or behaviors that contribute to depression.
Medication has been developed that effectively treats depression that is severe or disabling. Antidepressant medications are not "uppers" and are not addictive. Sometimes, several types may have to be tried before the patient and their doctor find the one that works best.
Treatment can help most depressed people start to feel better in just a few weeks, so if you have any concerns be sure to take action. Talk to your child, call someone who can help, do something.
For more information on this and related subjects, contact the HELP Committee at 265-6206.