A Cracked Vase: Dealing with Depression Among Teenagers

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Pinned on the bulletin board in Tracey Leibowitz’s office, in a cardstock material, is a picture of a broken vase whose pieces have been put together again.

She’s a Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School guidance counselor, and this time of year, the number of students looking at the picture has increased.

Leibowitz said that they need counseling during major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas because financial and family issues cause them to feel lonely and excluded due to the fact that they don’t receive as much love, gifts and food that most teens receive during this time.

Like a broken vase that’s been mended, teen depression leaves a mark.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 11 percent of U.S. teens experienced depression in 2013. Though most believe it’s just a mood, when diagnosed, depression becomes a part of your life.

Depression is a mental health illness that can result in loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, inability to get out of bed, excessive sleep, lack of sleep and random tears. Professional help is often needed.

Holding a white daisy in it, Leibowitz’s vase picture, round at the neck and circular at the rim, shows a picture of a child. The child, dressed in a red shirt, seems to lack a facial expression.

“Amongst teenagers, sometimes you are too young to deal with depression and (they) don’t feel like they can reach out for help. They feel like they have no hope, no bright future.” said clinical social worker and therapist, Rinat Lustig.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some causes of depression include biological chemistry, hormones, inherited traits, early childhood trauma and learned patterns of negative thinking. Additionally, therapist Michael Stiglitz finds social media and smartphones to be a relatively new phenomenon causing depression.

Considering that many teens spend most of their free time on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., the desire to be like the girl/boy with the most likes and fame, and the reality that they can’t be, can lead to a low self-esteem.

“There’s a piece of general societal change which is smartphones and social media, which are supposed to make people feel more connected, but make them feel (isolated), which adds to depression,” he says.

Varying from counseling to medication or both, treatment is one of the most effective ways to cope with depression and should be used.

“Whether it is situational or biochemical, depression should be treated professionally,” according to Stiglitz.

Depending on how severe the case may be, the average patient is seen and spoken to once a week and twice in the most severe cases. Special treatments are given such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and antidepressants which help the patient to see life in a more positive eye.

Medication isn’t the only solution though.

“Parents can be understanding, not panic, be available and have hope for them” as a way of helping teen patients cope, Lustig said. In addition, there’s always hope that things will get better in time. Therapists believe that if the patient receives good enough treatment, he or she should start feeling like themselves again within the next year.

“We return to our baseline sense of happiness in roughly six months. No matter what you go through, your brain will naturally re-adjust in six months,” Stiglitz said.

Fortunately, the vase was put together again with a bright and beautiful daisy. Things can get better. A sense of happiness can return.

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