Teen Depression – When to Seek Help

The teen years can be tough, but love, guidance and support go a long way. Dr Arti Jaiswal from IMC Paediatric gives advice on spotting the signs of depression in young adults, and how you can support your teen to seek help and start a potentially life-saving conversation.

What causes the mood changes in my pre-teen/teenager?
Though our hormones are commonly blamed for the ups and downs of adolescence, the changes in teenagers are primarily because of changes in the brain. Between 12-24 years, the brain is developing faster than ever before, and the last area to be fully developed is the frontal lobe, which is important for impulse control and decision making. Until it’s fully developed, teenagers rely on the part of the brain associated with emotion, impulse, aggression and instinct, called the amygdala, to make decisions.

How common is depression in adolescence?
Because of these changes, depression is adolescence can be a problem and we need to talk about it. Between 10-15% of teenagers have some symptoms of depression at any given time.

What are some signs my child has depression?
Temperamental teens are common, and moodiness and excessive sleeping
do not necessarily mean depression. The following are some signs that your child may be depressed, and you should seek help:

– Sad or irritable for most of the day, for most days in the last two weeks.
– Loss of interest in things that they usually enjoyed.
– Change in eating or sleeping habits
– Unexplained aches and pains.
– Little energy or motivation to do anything.
– Feelings of hopelessness about the future or feeling worthless or guilty about things that are not their fault.
– Changes in grades and academics.
– Smartphone addiction (chronic smartphone use that can distract from participating in daily activities).
– Any thoughts or discussion of suicide or self-harm.

What can my paediatrician or doctor do to help?
It’s recommended that all teens be screened for depression yearly. If you are worried about depression in your teenager, schedule a visit to your family doctor that is dedicated to discussing mood and depression.
Treatment options can vary, depending on the severity of your teen’s symptoms. Be assured that any evaluation and treatment by a GP is kept confidential. For example, IMC has a strict code of conduct in relation to patient confidentiality.

How can we get through these next difficult years?
Parents of teens should practice patience and provide guidance during these exciting, but sometimes tumultuous years. It’s important to build empathy and validate your teen’s emotions without trying to always problem solve. Continuing to support kids to eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, limit screen time and get daily physical activity can all have a positive effect on mood.
Remember that a parent’s influence runs deeper than you think. Enjoy time together with your teenager doing simple tasks, such as going for a walk, cooking a meal or watching a movie. Making time to do simple things with your young adult will leave the door open for conversations that may be difficult and can make more of a difference than you can imagine.

In crisis? Need support?
Please contact (free and confidential) Samaritans of Singapore 24 hour hotline on 1800-221-4444 or via email pat@sos.org.sg. SOS provides emotional support and guidance from trained volunteers. sos.org.sg

Dr Arti Jaiswal from IMC Paediatric

Talking Teens
IMC will be hosting a Talking Teens seminar aimed at parents of teens. The event will cover physical, sexual and mental health. Date: Friday 27 Sept, 10-11.30am at Camden Medical Centre. For tickets visit imc-healthcare.com