Clinical depression occurs when an individual is unable to cope with their feelings of overwhelming sadness, hopelessness and despair. They often rely on suicidal ideations as a crutch to help them cope with depression. Once they make the decision to commit suicide, they will give the outward appearance of being happy and at peace. By that time it is too late to save them.
There are some in the black community who don't believe that depression is a serious mental illness. According to Mental Health America, African Americans are particularly at risk for clinical depression, but we are the least likely to seek therapy due to the stigma and myths surrounding the disease.
If your child mentions that he or she is depressed -- even once -- this is a bad sign. They probably summoned all the courage they had in them to approach you. It may be the only time they will come to you with their problem before attempting suicide.
Your response is crucial. Do not dismiss your child with bad advice such as "Get over it" or "We all get the blues, it'll pass." It won't pass.
Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. For that reason, depression sufferers can't just "get over it" without intervention such as medication (anti-depressants) and therapy.
As black people, we must reject the belief that depression is a sign of weakness, or the lack of Jesus in our lives.
If you are unable to support your child emotionally due to your unfounded beliefs about clinical depression, please call a friend, or a crisis intervention group to support and provide the mental health resources that he needs.
There should be more of an emphasis on clinical depression today due to the high profile cases of gay teen suicides in the news. But sadly there isn't.
It's a shame that the national media continues to provide a disservice to their audience by claiming gay teens kill themselves because they were bullied or outed. In reality, gay teens kill themselves because they suffer from undiagnosed depression.
Clinical depression can affect anyone regardless of race, gender, age, creed or income. Recognizing the signs of depression in teens is crucial because they are not equipped to handle the stress that adults experience in their day to day lives.
For a depressed teen, even the slightest setback can lead to suicidal thoughts and intense emotional pain. They may believe that death is their only outlet and they see suicide as a form of release from their psychological captivity.
Here are the Signs and Symptoms to look for in depressed teens
- A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, or excessive crying
- Sleeping too much or too little, insomnia, early-morning waking
- Loss of interest or pleasure in favorite activities
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
- Irritability, restlessness
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
It is very important that you listen to your child -- or any child -- who expresses feelings of depression, hopelessness and helplessness. They came to you after studying you for a while and they trust you. They determined that you are the most likely person to listen to them. If you dismiss them, they will feel all hope is lost. Your rejection could be the final straw that pushes them over the edge.
If you feel your child is in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK to find mental health resources in your area.
This has been your medical minute.
Info on the web
Suicide Hotlines - Georgia Suicide and Crisis
Mental Health Resources - FindCounseling
Depression and African Americans - Mental Health America
Depression in the Black Community - Newsone
Depression: The Black Community’s Dirty Little Secret - Black Enterprise
Any medical information published on this blog is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with your personal physician or a health care provider.