An Ounce of Prevention for Teen Depression

In its newly released statement, Decreasing the Risk of Depression in Youth, the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) alerts parents and health professionals to the many protective factors against child and adolescent depression. These include parents maintaining a loving low-conflict marriage (1) , practicing authoritative parenting, maintaining family connectedness, discouraging drug use, promoting sexual abstinence (2), restricting and monitoring the use of social media and screen time, attending weekly religious activity as a family (3), encouraging children to keep a gratitude journal, and ensuring that children eat well, exercise regularly and get adequate sleep.

In addition to encouraging the protective factors discussed in the paper, ACPeds advises parents to monitor their children for signs of depression. Although moodiness is a feature of normal adolescence, there are signs that should alert parents to the risk of child depression. Prolonged sadness for no apparent reason, withdrawal from family and friends, falling grades, the inability to enjoy activities enjoyed in the past, insomnia or excessive sleeping, anorexia, and drug and alcohol use, may all indicate that a child is depressed and needs help (4).

Dr. Jane Anderson, principal author of the ACPeds statement says, “Depression is a growing problem among adolescents today, but there are steps parents can take to help their teens thrive.”

While a number of valuable screening tools are available for physicians, ACPeds recommends that pediatricians and other child health professionals go further and ask both adolescents and their parents about factors known to be associated with adolescent depression. These factors include a family history of depression, sexual activity (5), the use of hormonal contraceptives (6), abortion (7), drug use (including tobacco, alcohol and marijuana (8)), falling grades, cohabitation (9), bullying (10), and recent loss, such as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, parental separation or divorce (11), and a death in the family. For more information and resources visit www.acpeds.org.

 

References

[1] The Impact of Family Structure on the Health of Children – Effects of Divorce. (2014). American College of Pediatricians. Retrieved from http://www.acpeds.org/the-impact-of-family-structure-on-the-health-of-children-effects-of-divorce

[2] Cohabitation: Effects of Parental Cohabitation and other Non-Marital Sexual Activity on Children – Part 2 of 2. (2014). American College of Pediatricians. Retrieved from http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/societal-issues/cohabitation-part-2-of-2

[3]  VanderWeele, T.J. Religion and health: a synthesis. In: Peteet, J.R. and Balboni, M.J. (eds.). Spirituality and Religion within the Culture of Medicine: From Evidence to Practice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. http://pik.fas.harvard.edu/files/pik/files/chapter.pdf

[4] Teen Depression: Symptoms and Tips for Parents. (2016). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/depression#1

[5] Hallfors DD, Waller MW, Ford CA, Halpern CT, and Brodish PH, Iritani B. “Adolescent Depression and SuicideRisk: Association with Sex and Drug Behavior. American Journal of Preventative Medicine27 (2004): 224-230.    Birth Control Pill and Teen Suicide

[6] Birth Control Pill and Teen Suicide  Skovlund CW, Mørch LS, Kessing V, et al., Association of hormonal contraception with suicide attempts and suicides. American Journal of Psychiatry. November 17, 2017.Accessed 12/5/2017 at https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17060616.

[7] Induced Abortion: Risks That May Impact Adolescents, Young Adults, and Their Children. (2016). American College of Pediatricians. Retrieved from https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/health-issues/induced-abortion-risks-that-may-impact-adolescents-young-adults-and-their-children

[8] Marijuana Use: Detrimental to Youth. (2017). American College of Pediatricians. Retrieved from http://www.acpeds.org/marijuana-use-detrimental-to-youth

[9] Cohabitation: Effects of Parental Cohabitation and other Non-marital Sexual Activity on Children – Part 2 of 2. (2014). American College of Pediatricians. Retrieved from http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/societal-issues/cohabitation-part-2-of-2

[10] Gini G, Pozzoli T. Association between Bullying and Psychosomatic Problems: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics. Vol. 123 No. 3 March 2009, pp. 1059-1065.  Cited in Bullying at School: Never Acceptable

[11]  Kleinsorge C, Covitz LM. Impact of divorce on children: Developmental considerations. Pediatr Rev. 2013; 33(4): 147-154 Cohabitation: Effects of Parental Cohabitation and other Non-Marital Sexual Activity on Children – Part 2 of 2; The Impact of Family Structure on the Health of Children – Effects of Divorce

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