How to Recognize Signs of Mental Health Problems and Teen Suicides


During the month of May mental health experts come together for Mental Health Month, to help raise awareness and spread the word about mental health.

In adolescents and teens it’s not unusual to experience mood swings occasionally. Being a teenager can be an unsettling time with the many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes occurring.

Low moods or “the blues” can arise from a lot of different factors. For example, unrealistic academic, social, or family expectations can create a strong sense of rejection and can lead to deep disappointment. To make matters worse, teens are bombarded by conflicting messages from parents, friends and society.

More than anything, teens and adolescents need adult guidance to help understand all the emotional and physical changes they are experiencing.

Recognizing Adolescent Depression

According to Mental Health America adolescent depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Recent studies show that as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. Depression can also co-occur with other mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, which is a condition that alternates between periods of euphoria and depression.

Keep an eye out for these symptoms of depression, especially when they last for more than two weeks;

·         Poor performance in school

·         Withdrawal from friends and activities

·         Sadness and hopelessness

·         Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation

·         Anger and rage

·         Overreaction to criticism

·         Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals

·         Poor self-esteem or guilt

·         Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness

·         Restlessness and agitation

·         Changes in eating or sleeping patterns

·         Substance abuse

·         Problems with authority

·         Suicidal thoughts or actions

Helping to Cope with Adolescent Pressures

There are ways teens can cope when feeling down to avoid serious depression.

Try to make new friends; healthy relationships with peers are central to teens’ self-esteem and provide an important social outlet.

Get involved in sports, a job, school activities or hobbies; staying busy helps teens focus on positive activities rather than negative feelings or behaviors.

Join organizations that offer programs for young people; special programs geared to the needs of adolescents can help develop additional interests.

Ask a trusted adult for help; when problems are too much to handle alone, teens should not be afraid to ask for help.

The Danger of Teen Suicides

Sometimes teens feel so depressed they consider ending their lives. Across the nation each year, almost 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 24, kill themselves. The rate of suicide for this age group has nearly tripled since 1960, making it the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age youth.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Suicide

According to Mental Health America, four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. Adults should pay close attention to these warning signs;

·         Suicide threats, direct and indirect

·         Obsession with death

·         Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death

·         Giving away belongings

·         Dramatic change in personality or appearance

·         Irrational, bizarre behavior

·         Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection

·         Changed eating or sleeping patterns

·         Severe drop in school performance

What can Parents and Adults do?

·         Ask the teen if they feel depressed or think about suicide or death. Listen to their thoughts and feelings in a caring and respectful manner.

·         Let the child or teen know that you care and want to help.

·         Supply them with local resources, such as a crisis hotline or the location of a mental health clinic.

·         Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional that has experience helping depressed children and teens.

·         Alert key adults in the child’s life—family, friends, teachers.

·         Trust your instincts. If you think the situation may be serious, seek immediate help.

Additional Resources:

Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network Resources:

1-800-273-TALK (8255) – This number will connect you with a crisis center in your area.