On Teenage Depression From More Than Moody
Harold S. Koplewicz
Each year as many as 8.3 percent of the adolescent population
will begin exhibiting signs of depression.
More teenagers die each year from suicide than from all other
illnesses—from cancer to AIDS—combined.
According to the CDC, each year, 1 in 5 high school students
in the United States has thoughts of suicide.
Each year, over 2 million high school students in the United
States make specific suicide plans.
Each year, some 400,000 high school students in the United States
make suicide attempts requiring medical attention, coming to
an average of 1,000 attempts a day nationwide, every day of
One in five teenagers report that they have had a major depressive
episode that went untreated during their adolescence.
While ten million children and adolescents have a diagnosable
psychiatric disorder right now, there are only 7,000 board-certified
child and adolescent psychiatrists in the United States
and fewer than 6,000 child psychologists.
During adolescence, there is a burst of rapid brain maturation
during a period that roughly correlates with the ages at which
rates of depression increase markedly—this maturation
may explain why adolescents have an increased susceptibility
Gay and bisexual adolescents are more likely than their peers
to have been victimized and threatened, to have used drugs and
alcohol and to have engaged in sexually risky behaviors. In
addition, they have more suicidal ideations and have made more
While 31 percent of white children and adolescents with emotional
problems receive treatment, only 22 percent of African–American
and 14 percent of Hispanic children and adolescents receive
the care they need.
Overall, only 1 in 5 depressed teens gets psychiatric treatment,
and those who are untreated are likely to experience a recurrence
of their depression.
In 90 percent of suicide cases, there is some underlying psychiatric
disorder, with depression being by far the most common. It is
the leading condition in half the suicides of adolescent boys
and 70 percent of girls.
Suicide rates among susceptible teens have been shown to increase
following media coverage of teenage suicide.
In recent years, adolescent suicide rates have begun to decline
with a notable exception among teenage African-American males,
whose rate has increased 105 percent in the past decade.
Girls are twice as likely as boys to attempt suicide, but boys
are ten times more likely to die (this may be explained by choice
of method—girls tend to overdose, while boys are more
likely to use guns).
80 percent of adults suffering from major depression will respond
to antidepressant drugs.#
Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz is the author of More than Moody: Recognizing
and Treating Adolescent Depression.
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