Depression and Suicide In Adolescents.
As a state of extreme grief and all-encompassing sadness, depression, if left untreated, may lead to a deliberate murder of oneself, suicide. Depression effects individuals with out discriminating against race, gender, or age, yet among adolescents, the incidents of depression have increased significantly. Such increase is the potential cause of the rise of suicide rates amidst adolescents. Therefore it is imperative to treat depression before attempts of suicide are made, for if neglected, such attempts could become successful.
Through out the years, adolescence has been regarded as the most confusing and difficult part of life, for teenagers deal not only with hormonal and bodily changes, but also with changes of their position in the society. Responsibilities for and ambiguities about the future, along with romantic relationships or alienation from such, are substantial causes of anxiety and stress to an adolescent. Teenagers today face problems different from those faced by teens of previous generations. Few of such problems are freedom, to engage in sexual activity and to abuse drugs, experiences in loss due to the soaring divorce rates, and the sense of loss of any kind of progress. Moreover, societal pressures to conform to an ideal physical model induce emotional distress onto young males and females. During adolescence teens thrive to find their identity and this identity is fragile and is threatened by fears of rejection, feelings of failure, and of being different. Commercialism of the favored looks and possessions may become unpleasant to a psychologically and emotionally stable individual, who does not posses the means advertised by the society. Such commercialism could be devastating to a less fortunate, in regards of monetary and psychical status, adolescent trying to find his or her identity. According to the researches of Herman-Stahl and Petersen, highly stressed adolescents display poor coping skills, low perceptions of efficacy, pessimism and withdrawal. Such combination of negative emotions may be concomitant of the depressive experience (Herman-Stahl and Petersen 1996). In other words, regardless of its source, stress is the leading cause of mental, otherwise called emotional or nervous, breakdowns, which in return can cause depression. Another highly effective factor of depression is the genetic predisposition. According to Garlson and Hatfield “…both simple depressive disorders and manic-depressive disorders are genetically transmitted” (Garlson and Hatfield 290). Therefore if a teen is genetically predisposed to depressive symptoms, the surrounding society only adds onto the chances of such adolescent becoming mentally depressed. Depression itself, according to Multiscore Depression Inventory, assesses nine components such as low energy, cognitive difficulty, irritability, sad mood, guilt, low self-esteem, social introversion, pessimism and instrumental helplessness (Wilcox and Scatter, 1996). Thus withdrawal from social interaction and alienation of oneself, along with the nine components, is a sign of depression.
As stated in The Journal of the American Medical Association, adolescent suicide may be a very different phenomenon than suicide among adults, particularly the elderly. Elderly people who commit suicide seem to be more likely to have a clear and sustained intent to do so. Young people, on the other hand, are impulsive and not particularly skilled in communication (Rosengberg, Mercy, Houk 1991). According to the American Journal of Community Psychology, suicidal rate has gone from 3.6 per 100,000 people in 1960 to 11.3 per 100,000 in 1988, whereas the rates have increased only slightly in the total population (Reifman and Windle 1995). Such high rise in suicide rates was partially influenced by the way suicide is viewed. In the current society, suicide, along with its attempts, is considered an evidence of a character flaw, rather than a result of a serious psychological disorder. Such ignorance is a significant cause of the alienation process which prevents an adolescent from seeking help. In fear of being regarded as weak and helpless, some teenagers take matters into their own hands, so it seems to them at that particular moment. This fear comes from the notion of the society on suicide being sinful and equivalent to murder, when in fact it is an act triggered by an illness. Moreover, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry there is growing evidence of an association between suicidal tendencies and a low level of the neurotransmitter serotonin. A higher rate of suicide attempts has been found in depressed patients whose spinal fluid contains low levels of a breakdown product of neurotransmitter serotonin. In addition, several studies have also found higher numbers of serotonin nerve receptor type in the brains of the suicide victims (Pandey, Pandey and Dwivedi 1995). Lack of the normal amount of serotonin is a chemical imbalance, it affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which seems to be the area most impacted by an serotonin system dysfunction (Larkin and Marilynn 1996). Such evidence of a chemical imbalance in a brain, corroborates a statement that suicide attempts are not of a character flaw, but a chemical.
Since even before the days of Hippocrates, who referred to depression as a “black bile” scientists have been working on finding the cure for depression and suicide. Psychotherapy and prescribed drugs are currently the dominant treatments for mentally
depressed patients. According to the research conducted by The American Journal of Psychiatry in a San Diego Study, twelve percent of victims of suicide were on a some sort of an antidepressant and seeking some sort of psychiatric counseling at the time of death (Isacsson, Rich and Bergman 1996). Thus, supporting the statement that psychotherapy, along with antidepressants, significantly reduces the chances of a depressed patient committing suicide. Another factor, along with psychotherapy and antidepressants, which could help reduce the rate of suicides, is the social aspect. Such institutions as schools, where teenagers spend most of their adolescence, need to be more aware and alert of depressive and suicidal symptoms. Teachers and school psychologists need to attend to the needs of students, for adolescents are highly competitive and discriminatory against each other. In order to prevent depression, and thus the suicide attempts, parents need to involve themselves in the lives of their adolescent child. In result, the teenager will be more frank and free to suggested guidance through the rough episodes.
In conclusion, to someone who is profoundly depressed, suicide seems to be an easier escape from the unbearable pain that placed the individual in such depressive state. Moreover, the contemporary society regards depression and suicide as character defect, rather than a cerebral chemical imbalance. Thus to a developing adolescent, who might also be genetically predisposed to depression, who has not yet learned the proper skills of coping with stresses of life and surviving the misfortunes of it, reaching out for help could become more difficult than committing suicide. Therefore, in order to prevent such an escape, parents, along with teachers, and responsible adult individuals need to educate and be more aware of depression and its consequences.