Background on Mental Health

Depression

Millions of people deal with depression in their daily lives, but often they do not know how to handle it or where it comes from. Depression is an illness that may demand professional help and medical treatment.

Depression is fueled by a variety of things including biological factors, personality traits, environmental stresses and physical changes. Biological factors include both traits that are genetic, passed down from generation to generation and chemical imbalances in a person's brain. There are also many different personality traits that increase the likelihood of depression. These include low self-esteem, pessimism, and the inability to cope with stress. In addition, a variety of life circumstances can trigger depression. Everything from living in poverty, dealing with the death of a loved one, or illness can increase the likelihood of depression. Finally, physical changes in the body can also trigger mental health. Research demonstrates that stroke, heart attack, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and hormonal disorders may lead to depression.

Suicide

Suicide, meaning the act of killing oneself, is also a somewhat common problem. Many kids, especially in the turmoil of adolescence, consider suicide as an option to get away from their problems. Often, this is just a cry for help, when they are feeling so lost that they cannot deal with their lives alone. However, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds, so it does in fact occur at somewhat high frequency.

The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in youth are depression, alcohol or drug abuse, aggressive or disruptive behavior, and a previous suicide attempt. Be observant and look out for certain behaviors. A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may give hints by saying things like "I won't be a problem for you much longer," putting his affairs in order, by, for example, giving away favorite possessions, cleaning his or her room, throwing away important belongings, etc.

Often, these troubled teens are just looking for a little bit of kindness and someone who cares.

Self-Injury

Self-injury is any deliberate, non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on your body done in order to relieve emotional distress. It is a way of validating emotional pain by replacing it with physical pain. Usually, it is not a suicide attempt, but only a response to the stresses of day to day life.

The most common form of self-injury is cutting, but it can also come in the form of burning, scratching or choking. These people are not usually asking for attention, and try to hide the signs of self-injury.

In every case, self-injury serves some purpose for the self-injurer. Understanding the root may allow the person to stop harming themselves. However, it may be a difficult habit to break, because it can become psychologically addicting.

Sources
About Teen Depression
Medicine Net
National Alliance on Mental Illness
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry