Teen depression is not child's play

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as well as other agencies tackling mental health have only started focusing on children's and adolescents' mental health within the last two decades. Parents and health care professionals often find it difficult to determine or diagnose a child's or teen's depression or anxiety as it is second-guessed as a "phase" that the young person is going through, and that the same person may just be "acting up".

But what is a "phase"? That could very well be a period of clinical depression or anxiety requiring complete and focused medical care. Or not. As a healthcare provider and a parent, I prefer not to take that chance.

Seeing a child or teen "happy" or smiling at times does not often reveal what is beneath the facade. It is not a secret that many young boys and girls often hide or bottle up their inner thoughts and feelings. But to what extent is it healthy - and when does it become unhealthy?

We cannot rule out internal and external factors affecting young children that lead to depression and anxiety. 

Some of these factors include:

- trauma/ violence

- divorce

- homelessness or separation anxiety

- school/ cyber bullying

- identity confusion/ sexual orientation

Depression and anxiety, if left untreated may lead to very dangerous health issues from mental fatigue, weight loss/ eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and violence.

If you suspect depression or anxiety with your child or teen, visit your physician without delay. This should be treated like any other critical health issue or concern.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.

Marigold Castillo, M.D. Dr. Marigold "Dr. Gold" Castillo is a board-certified physician specialist practicing in Bayside, New York. She is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Zucker School of Medicine of Hofstra/ Northwell. She focuses on personalized care in general pediatrics and adolescent medicine.

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