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Understanding and responding to the increase in teen depression

Published: Monday, July 21 2014 4:30 a.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, July 21 2014 3:57 p.m. MDT

A study at the Stanford School of Medicine found genetics to be a factor in about 50 percent of depression cases.

The disease’s genetic nature is one of the reasons why more incidents of depression are being reported, according to Singh, and is actually a benefit for suffering teenagers.

“Sometimes kids are being recognized sooner than perhaps they otherwise would have because they have a family member who is affected by the disorder, who understands it and may have gone through a similar process,” she explains.

Cobb, who has suffered from depression throughout her life, found that her own experiences made her more willing to seek out help for her daughter, rather than punish the young woman for being moody and obstinate.

“If I hadn't finally understood my own experiences with it, I would have never known how to find help for her.”

Singh advises parents to open up a safe dialogue with their children to encourage them to discuss their emotional health.

“The hardest thing about depression is the lack of understanding that it is a condition that a person cannot control. It's the stigma that if a person just tried harder, they could overcome it,” Cobb said.

This stigma makes it hard for sufferers to express how they feel. They fear that they will be ostracized because of a condition they can’t control.

According to Singh, viewing depression as shameful can make children and parents unwilling to address the problem, which delays treatment and puts the teens at higher risk. The only way to reduce the stigma is to recognize and understand depression.

“Parents and children need to be informed consumers,” she said. “I encourage families to be patient and persevere in engaging with a primary care physician. The consequences of not treating depression are too great.”

If you suspect your child or teenager may be suffering from depression, visit their personal physician immediately.

To find a child psychiatrist in your area, visit the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website and select the “Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder” link.

If someone you know is in danger of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK, a national hotline that will direct you to a trained crisis counselor in your area.

Email: ehales@deseretnews.com

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