By Jeff Moat
NC – The school year can be a stressful time for parents and youth alike. Adapting to new schedules, new teachers and new challenges can heighten existing mental health problems and illness. In Canada, data shows approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode. During this trying time of year, it’s especially important to be aware of your teen’s state of mind. Here are four symptoms to look out for related to youth depression from the Partners for Mental Health’s parent guide:
1. Loss of interest in life and activities: If your youth shows a lack of interest in day to day events, a negative attitude or an unwillingness to partake in activities they usually enjoy, they may be facing a mental health problem or illness, such as depression.
2. Change in behaviours (eating/sleeping): Changes in sleeping and eating patterns may also be a sign that an issue exists. Symptoms can include anything from overeating, to not eating enough, to sleeping long hours, or sleeping very rarely.
3. Use of drugs or alcohol: An increase in reckless behaviour including drug and alcohol use may also be a sign of a mental health problem or issue. Check in with your kids and make sure they have a healthy attitude towards drugs and alcohol.
4. Changes in personality: If you notice that your youth has experienced a drastic shift in personality, or sense of low self-esteem, it may be more than just the typical adolescent mood swing.
Being aware of the warning signs of mental health problems or illness, such as depression, and encouraging an open dialogue with your teen are just a few of the steps you can take, to help support your youth’s mental health and prevent problems and suicide. However, keep in mind that just because you notice one or more of these changes, it does not necessarily mean that your youth has a mental illness. But you should consider approaching them and seeking a professional opinion and/or help.
Additional information is available within the free parent guide from the national charity, Partners for Mental Health at www.rightbyyou.ca.
Jeff Moat is the President of Partners for Mental Health, an organization that seeks to transform the way Canadians think about, act towards and support mental health and people living with a mental illness.
Depression source: www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/