I just received the lastest newsletter from the UpsideDown Organization. If you haven't heard of UDO, it's a company based in Baltimore, MD that provides training on brain-based learning. A GREAT resource for teachers, counselors, and parents. If you ever have the opportunity to go to a training with Frank Kros, I would definitely recommend seizing that opportunity.
You can sign up to receive their newsletter via email. This month's feature article is about teen depression. I've copied it here for you:
Why So Sad?
by Heather Higgins, LCSW-C, Director of Training and Development, The Upside Down Organization
During childhood, the number of boys and girls affected by depression are just about equal (percentages range from 2-5%). However, once they hit adolescence; girls are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be diagnosed with depression. What is going on with young women that put them at risk for this often debilitating illness? There are multiple factors working together and numerous ways to provide assistance and support.
To begin with, teenagers (especially females) experience a drop in the neurotransmitter serotonin. A neurotransmitter is a substance that is designed to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, sleep disorders, and various forms of addiction. Therefore, this decline in serotonin places adolescents at risk for depression.
Ways to Combat Serotonin Decline
The good news about serotonin is that there are numerous ways we know of to combat its decline. For example, many people choose to take serotonin supplements or medications called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's). As with any medication, it is very important to consult your physician and to be aware of potential side effects.
Alternatively, serotonin levels are positively impacted by exercise. As little as 20 minutes a day of exercise will naturally release serotonin, aiding in feelings of calmness and serenity. It is essential that teens incorporate movement and exercise into their daily routines.
Other natural ways to increase serotonin include helping others (service learning projects and volunteer work), getting sufficient sleep (teens need about 9.25 hours per night), eating a healthy balanced diet (there are many foods associated with increased serotonin production, such as fish, beans, nuts, & vegetables), spending time with family or friends that we love and trust, listening to or playing music, and spending time outdoors in sunshine.
Stress is another very common issue impacting teenagers. Stress is associated with an increase of the neurotransmitter Cortisol. High levels of stress will lead to a decrease in serotonin. Here you can begin to make the connection between anxiety and depression. Low levels of serotonin and high levels of cortisol make the dual diagnosis quite common.
Stress can be caused by many different events and issues that teens
encounter. During this time of development, adolescents are faced with a great deal of decisions -- such as choosing an academic or career path, choosing friends, deciding if they are ready to date, or if they want to be involved in a physically intimate relationship. Teens are also making decisions about their appearances, their extracurricular activities, their religious beliefs, their
relationships with parents and siblings -- all while trying to manage the hormonal changes that are taking place inside of them.
Being Female Equals Extra Stress
For females, this time period can be extra stressful due to physical changes in their bodies. Many girls develop breasts and curves, and gain weight. The transition from a little girl body to a womanly figure can be difficult, especially when girls are looking at the (unrealistic) images of models and celebrities that are covering magazines and television. The pressure to look like a runway model can be another source of stress and angst for young women.
In addition, most girls begin puberty at an earlier age than boys do. Girls who mature physically earlier than their same age peers may experience heightened self consciousness and anxiety. During this time period it is critical that parents and caretakers talk with their daughters about their development and self image.
Genetics and Negative Life Events
While genetics play a role for both genders, some research suggests that during puberty, a combination of genetic factors and negative life events is more likely to result in depression for girls than boys. In general, children who have a family member with depression are more likely to suffer from a similar diagnosis.
Depression can appear differently in each person. Some of the most common symptoms include:
feeling persistently sad
talking about suicide or being "better off dead"
marked deterioration in school
reporting persistent physical complaints (often headaches and stomachaches)
failure to engage in activities that were previously pleasurable decreased contact with friends
changes in sleep or appetite (either an increase or decrease)
Acting Quickly is Key!
If you know a young person who is exhibiting these symptoms it is imperative that you act quickly. Some feelings of sadness and anxiety are typical during the teen years. But, no one should have to suffer with depression alone. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds. Depression can be treated very effectively. Help is a phone call away. An evaluation by a mental health professional can help determine if depression is an issue in a teen you care about and can help identify the best course of action to be taken. Don't
Gurian, Anita: Depression in Adolescence: Does Gender Matter? Silberg JL,
Pickles A, Rutter M, Hewitt J, Simonoff E, Maes H, Caronneau R, Murrelle L, Foley D, & Eaves L (1999) The influence of genetic factors and life stress on depression among adolescent girls. Arch Gen Psych 56 (3) 225-232.
The Upside Down Organization (UDO), formerly The Institute for Transformation Education, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and advocacy of Transformation Education, an organizational philosophy and operating system for child-serving organizations. UDO offers professional development experiences, mentoring services, learning tools and organizational branding that
help improve the skills of people who educate, parent, guide and care for young people.
Visit UDO online, contact 443-829-6155 or e-mail email@example.com.