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Recognizing Mental Illnesses in Adolescents

by Airika Lewis 3 years ago in stigma
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Many forget the stress that comes along with being a teen.

An essay I wrote in high school. I was given an assignment where I could write on any subject I wanted to bring awareness to. Since a young age, I've realized teens and children’s mental health is so important, and they always need to be listened to.

No matter what age a person is, the teenage years are seen as the golden years. Children cannot wait to be a teenager. Adults can also find themselves missing their younger selves where they had less responsibility than they do today. Teens are often pictured as carefree young adults who attend high school and have little-to-no mature responsibilities. Many forget the stress that comes along with being a teen. Especially in today’s society, young adults are extremely misread. This means certain mental illnesses with “moody” symptoms are often ignored. Their attitudes are shrugged off, when in reality it could be a cry for help. Because of this, teens hold in a lot of emotion, which does not have a good outcome most of the time. The lack of treatment for mental illnesses in adolescents needs to be recognized because it could potentially worsen the disability, damage the teen mentally, or worse, lead to a tragic permanent action.

Many would most likely argue that teenagers are very hormonal in general. This may be because they are not educated on mental illnesses, or they believe it is an extreme thing to resort to if a teenager is acting out. Instead of going with a diagnosis, they are trained to believe that is normal behavior for a person that age. If it is not normal behavior, the teen is being influenced somehow and are trying to find their identity in the process. Currently, social media is a very big influence to teens. It influences how they think and react. People believe teens should stay off social media to avoid influencing their hormonal minds. They also would think teens should avoid being put into emotional situations. It is arguable that teens are moody as it is and sometimes display very few mental illness symptoms. However, it does not mean they are not diagnosed with anything.

Instead of claiming teens are not diagnosed with anything at all, it is important to learn how to identify symptoms. This is the most challenging part for most. In an article that give information about depression in adolescents it explains, “Depression may take up to two years to fully manifest itself and, in susceptible adolescents, may or may not be triggered by an identifiable incident.” (Greenberg, 1) It is possible for teen’s symptoms to develop and worsen over time, making it hard to distinguish. Also, depression could be ruled out if a major life event has not happened in the teenager’s life in order for them to behave in a droopy manner. Teens symptoms are hard to identify because they differ from other ages. For example, depression in adolescents is different from the symptoms you see in depressed adults. According to an article that focuses on teen depression, “a depressed adolescent is more likely to manifest a decreased interest formerly pleasurable activities and irritability.” (Brown, 2) It stretches beyond lazy behavior and sadness. Teens who suffer may have increased irritability, changes in their appearance, and withdraw from their normal social groups. Recognition is vital, since majority of teens are not willing to admit there is something psychologically wrong. In an article describing how depression is for teens, it expresses, “Children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders may be at a greater disadvantage than adults because they depend to a great extent on others, usually adults, to recognize their problem.” (Greenberg, 1) Parents are typically around the child the most, and should be able to recognize any changed behaviors or peculiar actions. Adults in all public settings, such as teachers and coaches, should be educated on the signs and symptoms as well. If such behavior becomes a regular pattern in school, teachers should take these signs seriously. Teens trust adults superior to them, and if nothing seems wrong to the adults, the teens believe it is normal behavior. Many factors should be taken into consideration when identifying depression. Agreeing with that statement, an article on teen depression says, ”Researchers are far from certain whether depression is influenced more by the environment or by genetics.” (Greenberg, 1) If a mental illness is not identified, it can not be helped. It should be emphasized that the symptoms should not be taken lightly. Teens are not always moody. Ignoring a teen’s symptoms could damage the teen in multiple ways.

Going along with the example mental illness, depression can negatively impact a teen mentally and physically. Some may find it hard to believe a mental illness can impact the body. However, depression causes fatigue and aches of the stomach and head. It is also a cause of weight gain or loss given the teen it is affecting. Depression can also leave the adolescent feeling as if their physique is not up to par. Mentally, the teen becomes more sensitive. This sensitivity causes them to react to different things either in a sad or angry manner. In an excerpt on teen depression symptoms, it states, “Depressed teens are plagued by feelings or worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure.” (Bjornlund, 6) Adults who are not knowledgeable to depression symptoms can potentially make it worse. By making poor grades in school, the parent or teacher assumes the teen is just lazy and slacking off instead of being concerned. This is a noticeably big indicator of a teen’s changing behavior, especially if the teen usually excels in school. Adults are ignorant to the fact that the teen may have concentration issues or feel no motivation to complete school work, both of which are signs of depression. The criticism can make the teen feel worse than before, and throw them into a never ending cycle that is very hard to escape. Feeling alone and ignored can cause terrible outcomes. Some, of which, that can not be reversed.

Teen suicide is an awful subject, but needs to be spoken on. It is frequently seen as a horrible event, then pushed under the rug. It is most likely seen as a dramatic event that very seldom happens. However, it is sadly becoming an option for today’s suffering teens. In an article focusing on children’s mental illnesses, it informs, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10-to 24-year-olds.” (Villalpando, 1) It is ridiculous suicide is ranked so highly. Feeling suicidal is no where close to normal behavior. Teens with mental illnesses see harming themselves as a form of discipline. Self harm is no stranger either. Some teens feel the need to harm themselves. However, in extreme cases, suicide is a gruesome result. If ignored and not treated, it can be an outcome. Depression can lead to make a teenager feel as if there is no way out. Teens who have behavioral and verbal warning signs should have a close eye kept on them. It is sad to know that an ignored cry for help can result in death, and attention needs to be brought to it. In an article on depression and suicide it specifies “A key component to effectively prevent teen depression and suicide is to build multiple protective factors.” (King, 2) A teen should feel as if they have someone to talk to about how they feel. This should be established at home and school. Socially, a teen should feel some sort of connection with their family, in school, and with their community.

Finding the right support is essential, as well as treatment. Dependable treatment is crucial because there is always a possibility that the teen can relapse and have more than one depressive episode. To summarize, “A diagnosis of depression is often a relief, although no cure has been found, and treatment does not have an immediate effect on symptoms.” (Bjornlund, 1) Treatment often includes medication and therapy. Medication for treatment gets mixed reviews. In an article speaking on the treatment of mental illnesses for teens, it states, “The current medical consensus is that they may create more problems than they solve, especially for children with symptoms of only mild depression.” (Times, 1) From prior knowledge, antidepressants take a while to get in sync with one’s brain before they start to make the adjustments. Side effects are the factor that is frowned upon. Some medications may cause teens to feel suicidal, or worse than the teen felt before. Some parents do not want their children hooked on medication for the teen to behave normally. The end result for majority of medications does improve the teen’s mental health, however the dosage or type of medicine may be a case of trial and error. This may be unwanted by some parents, so they chose to result to therapy as their main form of treatment. Therapy is more than talking about one’s feelings. Therapy helps the teen really get to the root of where their depression is emerging from. The cause of their depression could be due to a traumatic life event such as a death, or a breakup. Mental illnesses can also be genetic. There are multiple reasons why a depressive episode can be triggered. A common initial reaction to their diagnosis may be denial, and they may look for someone or something to blame. From personal experience, it takes time for teens to respond to treatment. Since there is a feeling of denial, teens may refuse to participate in the coping activities. It would help most if therapy continued throughout the individual’s day, such as at school and home. Surrounding peers and adults should support the teen and let them know they are not alone. This introduces positive effects for both sides. The teenager knows they are getting the help and support they need to help combat their mental illness, and the other party feels more confident and are more aware of how to deal with people who have the condition. Although it may be hard to admit, sometimes help is usually all a teen needs.

Mental illness in adolescents recognition is extremely important. It is often overlooked because teens have a reputation of being moody, when it could possibly be a sign of a common mental illness. In other words, “A teen’s sadness goes beyond normal ‘blues’ and turns into a problem.” (Harvard Children’s Health, 1) Many know about mental illnesses, but often think of it as a ‘thing’ that they know it there. It is more common than one may think and should have more awareness brought to it. It is not a foreign and untreatable disease that would go away if no one paid attention to, it is very real and impacts both the mind and body. Although some parents and teachers ignore symptoms, they should not be criticized. If not educated on it, the signs can be hard to detect. Being taught to recognize signs and taking action can benefit both parties in the given situation. The goal is to avoid any possible damage at all costs. A simple conversation could start the road to recovery.

Work Cited

Bjornlund, Lydia B. “Living with Depression” Diseases and Disorders: Depression, Detroit: Lucent Books, 2010, pp. 62-77

Brown, Anne B. “Teen Depression: Overlooked and Undertreated” Patient Care for the Nurse Practitioner, Oct. 2002

Greenberg, Rosalie, et al. "Depression in adolescents." Patient Care, 15 Dec. 1988, p. 65+. Student Resources in Context

“Adolescent Depression” Harvard Children’s Health, Aug. 21, 2006

King, Keith A. “Teen Depression and Suicide” The Prevention Researcher, Rebecca A. Vidourek, Nov. 2012

"Just Say No; Despite emphatic government advice a decade ago, doctors still prescribe antidepressant drugs to children. Other treatments should be prioritised." Times [London, England], 10 Mar. 2016, p. 21. Global Issues in Context,

Villalpando, Nicole. "Facts about kids and their mental health; Mental illness often first appears before age 14 and can look different than in adults." Austin American-Statesman [TX], 22 Oct. 2016, p. E1. Student Resources in Context


About the author

Airika Lewis

twenty years young.

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