Mental Health: Our Troubled Teenagers

The last article I wrote on the issue of teenagers and their mental health was posted Thursday, September 10, 2009. The title is "Teenage Depression and Consequences."

The URL to the article is:

I find myself worried about the fact that there were no responses to the article and the problem of adolescent depression and suicide. Therefore, I am posting a follow up article in the hope of attracting attention to this crucial dilemma because, for many families, it is like the storm brewing as shown in the photo.

I was recently priveleged to give a presentation to a freshmen group of High School students on the topic of teenage stress, depression and suicide and how to get help. More than a presentation, the event became a rewarding and informative discussion of these problems. What shocked me and the staff that was present were the numbers of students who personally knew youngsters who engaged in such behaviors as: 1. Self cutting, 2. Anorexia and or Bulimia Nervosa, 3. Attempted Suicide. In addition, many were willing to publicly admit to transitory thoughts of suicide. My educated guess is that none of them would publicly admit to having more frequent suicidal thoughts.

In preparing for the presentation I did some research on teen depression and suicide and was startled by the results. Most of the statistics came from the National Institute of Mental Health. There, I learned that:


1. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States.

2. The first leading cause of death among teens is motor vehicle accidents.

3. The adolescent suicide death rate is approaching that of the adult death rate.

When you consider alcohol and drug abuse among these young people, the fact that they drive while intoxicated and can be impulsive when sober, it becomes clear that suicide and motor vehicle accidents are closely related with many of those auto deaths being suicidal in nature.

The adolescent stage of life has always been marked by emotional turmoil and difficulty. In reading Leo Tolstoy's great novel, War and Peace, I was impressed by the fact that one of the older teenage girls in the story, Natasha, displayed all of the angst we are discussing here, including a suicide attempt by swallowing poison. The story takes place in 1812. So, this is nothing new.

Parents and Teachers:

Perhaps, what is new about teenage vulnerability is that parents and teachers are more remote from these young people than in ages past. With both parents working, teachers having large classes and the transitory nature of our neighborhoods where people do not know one another very well, it is easier than ever for teenage turmoil to go unnoticed.

Well, it is time to notice. Too many young people are dying. Depression, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse plague teens just as adults and are very treatable.

Yes, adolescents can have a Bipolar disorder. They can and do suffer Major Depression and they can and do become addicted to substances.

Parents, pay attention.

Teenagers, please go to your school psychologist, intervention specialist, or an adult you can trust, and discuss your feelings and problems. Help is available for teens and their families.

Your comments and questions are eagerly sought after from adults and teens because of the important nature of this topic.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD