Stateside: Understanding depression in teens
Depression in teens is a serious illness with a difficult diagnosis.
To better understand how to effectively communicate with one’s child we spoke with two men from the University of Michigan Depression Center.
Dr. Richard Dopp is a psychiatrist who specializes in teenage depression. And Eric Hipple, a former quarterback for the Detroit Lions, is the Center’s Outreach Coordinator.
“There is a lot of news that goes out when there is the loss of a teen. What we see over time is certain populations will have an increase in suicide, but what you are actually seeing is more people are talking about it,” said Dopp.
Hipple noted a significant increase in the rate of teenage suicide.
“The actual numbers from the 1950’s to where we are today is about a 300% increase in adolescent suicide,” he said
Hipple then addressed the importance of the internet when dealing with depression. By monitoring a child’s social media output, a parent can gain insight into emotions their son or daughter may not otherwise express.
“The internet is a powerful force, and it’s important to use it as a positive way to cope. It’s important to be involved in your child’s interaction with the world so you know they are processing this information in a way they’re able to understand,” said Hipple.
Hipple suffered from depression without fully identifying it.
“I cast it off because I didn’t have a name for it.”
It wasn’t until Hipple was sitting in his backyard during the offseason that he realized he was truly unhappy.
When Hipple's son Jeff committed suicide, he knew it was time to spread awareness.
“It was unfathomable that he would ever take his life,” said Hipple.
“It’s a real challenge for the teens to think of this as depression,” said Dopp.
Both guests addressed the challenge of differentiating between typical teenage irritability and depression symptoms.
“When we think of what types of mood shift warrants treatment, a lot of the time we’re looking at function. How is school going for the child? Sometimes a lack of motivation is sometimes the first thing we see in depression,” said Dopp.
Hipple noted the potential harm of dismissing a child’s symptoms.
“The best thing is to reaffirm what they say and open a dialog,” said Hipple.
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