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Adolescents, Depression, and Warning Signs

By Karen Williams, LIMHP April 16, 2012 Posted in: Wellness

Alegent Health is blessed to have several excellent medication providers and therapists who work with adolescents. As you can imagine, there are so many challenges to being in junior high and high school these days: grades, friends, dating, sex, family situations – there are so many internal and external influences. Anyone who is the parent of an adolescent knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Adolescence can be a very rich and rewarding time for our kids. They are making changes physically and mentally, and preparing to enter into the world of being an adult. Sometimes it can be very confusing – for the kids and for their parents. They look like adults in so many ways, but they don't behave like adults. One of the reasons for this is because the brain and many of the internal organs are still maturing. The brain of an adolescent is not the brain of an adult. Physically, your child may look all grown up, but emotionally they are not. They are still, in those adolescent years, becoming adults. I've heard some providers talk about adolescents as "emerging adults". And, while for some kids, adolescence is a great experience, others can really struggle due to mental-health issues like depression.

Depression, as you know, is a very real medical disorder. Many of us understand that adults suffer with depression, but so can our kids. Because of the way the brain functions during adolescence, there is an increased risk of impulsive behavior - the leap-before-you-look attitude. When it comes to depression, impulsivity can be very dangerous.

One of the things we're really concerned about as health-care professionals is the depressed adolescent who impulsively tries to hurt themselves by attempting suicide. Some moodiness in adolescence is to be expected, but when any child of any age talks about suicide, we, as parents and caregivers MUST take that seriously and seek help for the child.

The US Department of Health and Human Services offers the following list of warning signs to help us, as parents and caregivers, be on the lookout for who may be at risk. Adolescents who:

  • Have attempted suicide before
  • Have a close family member who has attempted or committed suicide
  • Have a history of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Are depressed
  • Have easy access to weapons
  • Have recently heard about others who have committed suicide
  • Have been physically or sexually abused
  • Are in jail

There are some statistics that tell us girls may be more likely than boys to attempt suicide, but boys are actually four times more likely to complete the act and die. I know this is difficult information for some to read, but Alegent Health wants to help. Here are some phone numbers we want you to have:

Lasting Hope offers a 24- hour phone number for those seeking help. You can call (402) 717-HOPE (4673) and press option 1 to speak with someone right away.

Other numbers that may be helpful are:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-TALK or 1 (800) 273-8255. You can also get more information at

Emergency for your local area: 911

If you, or someone you know, need help, please do not hesitate to reach out and get the help that's needed.

Take care!

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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