How the Stigma of Depression is Hurting Our Youth

Approximately 20% of youth experience depression at some point before adulthood, and 10-15% of youth show symptoms of depression at any given time, yet only 30% of depressed youth receive treatment. Characteristics of depression include anti-social behavior, sudden mood changes, sudden outbursts, deep sadness, inability to sleep (or excessive sleeping), and poor eating habits. Parents, teachers, and other people involved in the child or teenager’s life may assume that these characteristics are merely normal expressions of developmental and hormonal changes, which is why many youth do not receive treatment for depression. Furthermore, depression has a negative stigma associated with it, and so many people do not want to admit such feelings. This can cause tremendous problems in our youth, as discussed below.

Behavioral Issues
Due to the stigma associated with depression, many youth want to keep their feelings secret, or they are ashamed of such feelings, and so they feel that they can’t talk to anyone about it. Sometimes, they simply do not know about the resources available to them, such as the school counselor or outside therapy or medications. This lack of support for their condition can result in significant behavioral issues at school and at home, such as angry outbursts, poor performance, and even violence.

Developmental Issues
Youth often believe that no one else feels depressed like they do, especially since people rarely talk about it. They feel alone, as if something is wrong with them, and their self-worth begins to fade. They may also be afraid of disappointing their parents or friends with their problems, believing that they will lose the love and support of people in their lives. As a result, they may experience social and/or emotional development setbacks. Early treatment for depression can help to prevent this.

Physical Safety
Depression often leads to hopelessness, which can lead to suicidal or other harmful tendencies. Youth may express their frustration by “cutting” themselves in a suicidal attempt, or in a cry for attention, or simply to take their mind away from their troubles for a period of time. Other teenagers attempt suicide in a variety of ways. It is incredibly important to recognize signs of depression early to prevent self-inflicted harm. Talk to your child or student about their feelings, or consult with a medical professional if you have concerns. If a youth has previously attempted suicide or harmed themselves, then they are especially at high risk for suicide, and you should consider enrolling him or her into a formal program that treats depression.

Salt Lake Behavioral Health’s treatment for depression involves delving into the roots of your child’s issues and working with him or her to overcome them. Visit  or call  for more information.

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    Salt Lake Behavioral Health

    3802 South 700 East
    Salt Lake City UT US 84106
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