Community Health Network

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Stress and depression in young people

Signs and signals

Some emotional and behavioral signals which could indicate the presence of severe stress or depression in children or teenagers are:

  • Withdrawn and unresponsive
  • Preoccupied with death or suicide
  • Feels rejected or unloved
  • Worries about parents dying or leaving
  • Feels worthless, has low self-esteem
  • Looks lonely or sad
  • Recent weight loss/gain
  • Tends to be self-critical or harsh 
  • Shows a lack of spontaneity
  • Feels helpless or hopeless
  • Retreats, loses interest in objects or situations previously involved with
  • Seems tired or listless much of the time
  • Increasingly poor performance in school
  • Believes others do not like him/her
  • Has anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorder
  • Wants others to make decisions and anticipate needs or wants

In addition to the above, some children or young people may “act out” their feelings of depression. These behaviors may include:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Breakdown in communication with parents or family
  • Active resistance to authority
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Unresolved and ongoing anger
  • Running away from home
  • Truancy from school
  • Suicide attempts
  • Shoplifting
  • Fire starting
  • Cruelty to animals

Emergency mental health services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 800-662-3445 or 317-621-5700.

When should you seek help?

As parents and concerned adults, we have a responsibility to be aware of the many different warning signs of severe stress and depression in our young people. If we are to recognize or prevent situations that could endanger a child’s emotional and physical well-being, we also need to know when to trust our own feelings or perceptions that our child may need professional help.

Every child is different in personality and behavior, and no single symptom or isolated incident means that your child is depressed or has emotional problems. However, if you notice a child who is talking about suicide—no matter how casually—or who exhibits three or more of the symptoms listed, you should strongly consider seeking the advice of a mental health professional who is trained in the concerns and problems of young people.

Young people respond to pressure differently

If anything, young people are even more susceptible than adults to the stress, strain and pressure of our fast-paced, high-expectation society. They often lack the experience and coping skills to handle everyday uncertainties or disappointments.

Children and teenagers will often turn feelings of anxiety, frustration and stress into actions that are seen by most as disrespectful, destructive or even delinquent behavior.

What's the next step?

If you feel that an assessment of your child’s mental health will help clarify or resolve any concerns you have about what is normal behavior, or if you have questions about available treatment options, call the Gallahue Access line at 866-621-5719. A master's-level therapist will assist you in deciding exactly what type of assessment or help is appropriate.

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