Adolescence is a vulnerable developmental stage of life, ripe with mood, anxiety, thought and psychosocial disorders. And, Indian youth is burdened exams, expectations, peer pressure, violence and looming social tensions. Is it any wonder that adolescents fall prey to depression at this impressionable age?
According to a cross-sectional study published in Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, mental health literacy in adolescents at the pre-university stage is abysmally low. Only 29 per cent of those surveyed could identify depression as a medical condition that requires professional intervention. A mere 1.31 per cent could identify schizophrenia or psychosis. This shows that mental health is a neglected and peripheral to attitudes and pursuits in life. The study mentions that adolescents preferred reaching out to family members, especially mothers, rather than seek professional help.
Dr. Pankaj Gupta, President, IIHMR University, Jaipur
In India, roughly 200 million are estimated to suffer from depression at some point in their lives. So far, Indian insurers do not cover mental conditions in their policies although a recent circular issued by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) under the Mental Health Act, 2017, directs them to do so. In fact, mental well-being is a pre-requisite for obtaining health insurance.
With burgeoning expenditure on health conditions, insurance has become mandatory if one is to obtain quality treatment and patient care.
One can tell if a teenager is a victim of depression if he or she is constantly sad and shows loss of interest in activities. The teenager will typically underperform at school or university, be awkward in social situations, feel frustrated or even angry over small matters, be irritable and easily annoyed, feel hopeless, empty, worthless, be fixated on past failures and indulge in exaggerated self-blame and self-criticism. They may express extreme sensitivity toward rejection or loss and seek excessive re-assurance. Concentrating and remembering things would become difficult. A depressed teenager may feel directionless and futureless and indulge in thoughts of dying, pain and suicide.
Depression can manifest in physical problems as well. A constant feeling of tiredness, insomnia, change of appetite, restlessness or a prevailing state of agitation, slow thought processes, speech or movement, frequent complaints of body aches or headaches, social isolation, lack of interest in personal hygiene and appearance and a tendency toward self-harm are typical behavioural changes that can be witnessed as symptoms of depression.
Parents must understand that depression in their young adolescents is not a sign of weakness or a flaw in their character. Depression among teenagers is often ignored because people attribute their angst to raging hormones and concepts like generation gap. However, this is a serious medical condition that can affect learning goals, physical activity and productive potential, long into adulthood. Hence, seeking help from a doctor, a nurse or a spiritual leader is always advisable over leaving your child to cope on his own.