Mental Health Awareness Month: NIMH Twitter Chat

In recognition of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is hosted a Twitter chat on Thursday May 3rd to discuss teen depression. During this hour-long chat, Argyris Stringaris, M.D., Ph.D., MRCPsych, chief of the NIMH Mood Brain and Development Unit, and Ken Towbin, M.D., chief of the Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the NIMH Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, described depression and discussed the signs and symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options for teens. Drs. Towbin and Stringaris were also available to answer questions on the topic. Participants were asked to pose their questions and comments and use #NIMHchats. Other organizations that were present during this Twitter chat included the following:

  • Mental Health Colorado
  • The SMART Project at Northwestern University
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF
  • Research America
  • Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health
  • MindMap Connecticut
  • PracticeGround
  • Medline Plus

During this Twitter chat, NIMH defined depression as a medical illness that can cause symptoms that interfere with one’s daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating on schoolwork. Depression impacts how a person thinks about his or her abilities and future. For some people, depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities. Research America stated, “Depression is the leading cause of disability internationally. More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression around the world, and it can lead to suicide”.

Signs and symptoms in teenagers who have depression include the following:

  • Moodiness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Isolation
  • Poor school performance
  • Disruptive or risky behavior
  • Body aches/headaches
  • Academic decline
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Thoughts about harming yourself, dying, or suicide

Keep in mind that depression in teens can look different from adults. In boys you may see irritability, anger or increased agitation. In girls you may see withdrawal, boredom, or “moodiness”. These signs or symptoms do not all have to occur together as some individuals who have depression only experience a few symptoms.

Risk factors for depression

Risk factors for depression include past episodes of depression; family history of depression; major life changes, trauma, or stress; physical illnesses; substance abuse, and even some medications. Childhood trauma signs for middle and high school children include: feeling depressed or alone, developing eating disorders or self-harming behaviors, beginning abusing alcohol or drugs, and becoming involved in risky sexual behavior.

Treatment for depression

Treatment selection depends on the type and severity of your teenager’s symptoms. A combination of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication can be very effective for most teens with depression. The first step is to talk with an adult you trust such as a parent, teacher or doctors. Family medicine doctors and pediatricians are highly encouraged to screen children and teenagers for depression at office visits as there are usually telltale signs that can be picked up if screened appropriately. Seeking help doesn’t mean that you’re weak. It means that you’re taking care of yourself. Don’t let the time pass by, ask for help from some someone you trust, a school counselor or general practitioner

The @CrisisTextLine is another free and confidential resource available 24/7 when you or a loved one is in crisis, which is any painful emotion for which you need support. Send the text “HOME” to 741741 in the United States to be connected to a Crisis Counselor over text message at any time of day.