Is your teen unmotivated and disinterested in school and extracurriculars? Are you a teen who would rather be sleeping than “doing things” in your community? Has this been described as the typical teenager who just doesn’t care? There could be a lot more going on in this scenario than just a teen who seems to be more focused on video games or Instagram than anything else. Common symptoms of depression in teens include but are not limited to: feelings of sadness, frustration, and anger, loss of interest in “fun” activities, loss of connection with friends and family, trouble concentrating and making decisions, and major increase or decrease in sleep. While there are many more symptoms of depression, these are often perceived by parents, teachers, and other adults as laziness of a teenager who is going through a phase. This needs to be addressed and taken seriously because the difference between a lazy teen and a depressed teen could also be the difference between life and death if the situation persists long enough.
At Morgan, we have all received a not-so-gentle reminder of this over the past few years and the community has noticed. The staff at Morgan and over 50 current students have been Question Persuade Refer (QPR) certified and received information on how to handle difficult situations with students regarding mental health. It is important that everyone in the community look out for each other so that when one of us has fallen on tough thoughts there is help to get back up and carry on. It is not easy to lift yourself from a depressive state and so it is vital that those around us know the warning signs and symptoms of someone who could use a hand.
Parents who might be thinking that depression is an excuse for not doing work and not being active enough need to consider that depression is not a choice. Because depression is not a choice and a teen is not actively seeking it out that means it cannot be an excuse but rather an explanation. There need not be blame placed on any one party for why a teen is depressed but rather solutions should be discussed and those helping the teen need to step up. You can help someone who is depressed, regardless of age, by being there for them and listening to what they have to say. In a gentle and affirming way, talk to them about hope for the future and help that they can receive from a counselor, a crisis helpline, or a trusted adult who can provide more guidance. Some things to avoid when talking to a depressed person are statements such as “snap out of it,” “just be happy,” and “don’t be dramatic.” The goal is to make the person feel heard and valued so that they can continue with the next minute, hour, and day until they can regain their sense of self. If the child is unresponsive, contact a school counselor or other mental health professional to discuss possible ways to encourage the child to open up. Now more than ever, in the middle of a pandemic, it is important to check in with friends and family regularly even if they are not showing symptoms of depression. A quick text or phone call might be the perfect pick-me-up for that person.
The whole Morgan school and Clinton community are working hard to make sure that depression is taken seriously and you can help be a part of the solution.