In Africa, nearly 37 million adolescents (aged 10–19) live with a mental disorder,
with anxiety and depression affecting almost 50 per cent of them. Suicide is also
the ninth most common cause of death among the above age group.
From the above statistics, a large percentage of adolescents are affected by
depression. It is crucial for parents with adolescents to understand the signs and
symptoms of depression in your children.
Depression is a mental disorder that affects a person’s moods or emotions, It is
not an attitude that someone can “control” or “snap out of.” Remember what it
was like for you as a teenager? The moods swings, the unpredictability of your
behavior. Most of the time, those rapid and intense mood swings are a normal
part of adolescence and as parents we assume it’s part of who they are during
Teen depression however, often disguises itself as the normal mood swings of
puberty or teen angst, and often ignored until something serious happens, such
as a suicide attempt, risk-taking behavior or self-harm. But sometimes, teenage
mood swings can signal a more serious problem – depression and anxiety.
Depressed teens experience significant emotional and sometimes physical pain,
but they may not know how to make it better or find the help they need and
parents are usually in the best position to begin the process.
When mental health problems in children are not dealt with in the early years,
children carry them into their adult years.
Untreated depression can lead to other serious problems, such as difficulties in
school, difficulties with relationships, substance use, behavior problems, and
medical issues and the worst case scenario – suicide since depression is a strong
predictor of suicide, which makes teens extremely vulnerable to suicide if they
are not helped or treated.
Identifying depression in teens can be difficult because it doesn’t necessarily
show up in all aspects of a teen’s life and can come and go. Nevertheless, it is
often serious. It is a mistake to wait and hope depression will get better on its
own; it usually doesn’t.