Bringing Attention to Mental Illness
Mental health is a crucial aspect of everyone’s life. If mental health is not properly maintained, it can negatively affect one’s relationships, self esteem and quality of life. But society seems to overlook its impact on our lives. We all know someone who struggles with depression or anxiety- the fact is clear these types of illness are common. Although there are coping methods designed for such illness, they are applied after the patient was already affected. We see this protocol in the physical health department: medication and physical therapy. Yet from a young age we are also educated on how to stay healthy. Ultimately, the goal of being healthy is to prevent physical disorders and illness for as long as possible. Similarly to taking measures to prevent physical illness, research below provides warning signs in hopes of preventing mental illness such as depression.
Warning signs for depression is not always a clear answer. This illness affects age groups differently, resulting in different symptoms. The age group that will be focused on is teenagers. An article called “Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs”, by HelpGuide.org, provides a list of symptoms for depression. Despite the fact that this list was designed for individuals to self-analyze, some points on this list may be observable. Symptoms on the list such as “loss of energy, loss of interest in daily activities, and appetite or weight changes” are slight changes in behavior that may be noticed by family. Within the article, one can see that “irritability, anger, and agitation are often the most noticeable symptoms in depressed teens- not sadness”. We see a behavior that is different than we may expect: anger and irritability. Teenagers are growing out of childhood and are starting to be introduced to reality. Agitation and anger are understandable reactions for personally challenging events. Although this list contains some warning signs, it is difficult to name every symptom of depression. Among the whole population, there is a wide variety of individual cases of this illness. When looking at major events such as 9/11, many(if not, all) families involved have gone through a depression. Each family member cannot struggle the same exact way as anyone else and may result in a warning sign for depression that another struggling family member or friend does not inhibit. But some behaviors are also generalized, common and observable.
Recognizing warning signals is the first step to prevention. Depression is a risk factor for suicide; a more severe case of depression may intensify suicidal ideation. Preventing such illness could also yield a significant decrease in suicide. The current solution to this mental illness is therapy and coping methods. There is no doubt that this method is effective; however, only for those who can build up the courage to seek it. A certain barrier stands in the way between a depressed student and therapy: the stigma surrounding mental illness. The Choices Therapy Team evaluated studies and warning signs of depression while stating “the stereotypical picture of depression and anxiety limits people from identifying those at risk, and makes it difficult for those suffering to identify it themselves”. Not only does detecting warning signs prevent depression, it also prevents those from misunderstanding the concept of mental illness. The stigma of mental illness is mostly negative and discourages announcing the need for mental help. We are expected to keep that information to ourselves and handle it our own way. An additional solution is necessary: approaching teenagers who show warning signs. We see that anger and agitation is the most noticeable symptom of depression. Teenagers aren’t very familiar with dealing with a mental illness; the social stigma surrounding depression may lead them into denial or prevent them from making the initial step to seek professional help.
By approaching teenagers who show warning signs of depression, the social stigma of this mental illness could change and the teenage suicide would decrease. This would be upon the responsibility of authority figures. Authority figures are responsible for the safety of teenagers. According to the “Teen Depression and Suicide” article by Keith King and Rebecca Vidourek, “a key component to preventing teen depression and suicide is for professionals, parents/guardians, teachers, other supportive adults (e.g., coaches, religious youth group advisors, after school program leaders), and youth to remain aware of such warning signs and risk factors and to appropriately intervene when necessary”. This statement is not without reason. Aside from physical wellness, authority figures must also be prepared to detect warning signs and step in to guide the teen. Raising awareness and approaching the teen goes hand-in-hand. Through this solution, we are taking action beyond addressing the issue.
Detecting warning signs is the starting point of preventing a mental illness. Human error cannot be avoided but can be minimized by training authority figures to detect warning signs and avoid misjudgement of depression. As one can conclude, mental health has a significant impact on our lives; detection and action towards warning signs of depression can save lives.
“Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs.” HelpGuide.org, 15 Apr. 2020, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm.
Team, Choices Psychotherapy. “Why Don’t We Treat Mental Illness like We Do Physical Illness?” Choices Psychotherapy, 19 Nov. 2019, https://choicespsychotherapy.net/treat-mental-illness-like-physical-illness/.
King, Keith and Vidourek, Rebecca. “Teen Depression and Suicide.” ebscohost.com, 1 Nov. 2012, https://web-b-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=82530593-3252-43d4-97a4-a26385d3b9a8%40pdc-v-sessmgr04.