The winter weather makes everyone feel a bit down. It's the combination of those gray and dreary skies, the cold seeping into your bones, and the trapped feeling you get when the weather is inclement and you can't leave your home. Seasonal Affectation Disorder (SAD) wields its powers against most of us to some degree or another, but our youth are especially vulnerable. The number one reason for teen suicide is untreated depression and suicide is third down the list for causes of death in teenagers.
Depression is a mental health disorder that causes the sufferer to have feelings of anger, upset, and sadness, all day long. Those suffering from depression tend to have strong guilt feelings and may feel sapped of all energy. Depressed people will find that they no longer derive the same enjoyment from activities they once really loved.
If you ask a teen what makes him feel depressed, nine times out of ten, he'll tell you he feels at his worst after a bad day at school. Stress-filled school days tend to be a source of upset and depression for many teens. Meantime, people who experience depression without receiving treatment have 12 times the risk for committing suicide when compared to those who seek out treatment.
In teen interviews, 83% of adolescents think that girls have a greater vulnerability to depression. Whether or not this is true is questionable, however, it is true that of the two sexes, female teens are more likely to get help for their depression. Experts think this may be due to the fact that girls have a greater facility for sharing their feelings while boys are discouraged from telling others what they feel. Depression in teenage girls may be due more to social factors than to school stresses, since girls have stronger social bonds than do boys.
Another major causal factor in teen depression is substance abuse. A shocking 30% of teens suffering from depression engage in regular substance abuse. The link between substance abuse and depression seems undeniable.
How can we as parents prevent our teens from developing depression? Encourage teens to exercise and eat right. These two lifestyle factors—diet and exercise—combine to prevent many illnesses including mental illnesses such as depression. Should your child start to exhibit minor signs of depression, you may just be able to head it off by tossing a ball around with him every evening, or purchasing membership in a gym. Also, make sure that no matter how much junk he eats during the day, you serve him three healthy, balanced meals.
Encourage your teen to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Make your home a haven where he will want to invite friends over. You'll want your teen to make friends with kids who have positive goals. Try to show your child healthy ways of dealing with stress, provide him with a journal, and offer counseling with a mental health professional.