The following list describes some potential risk factors for those with a mental health disorder. If observed, a professional evaluation is strongly recommended. Many individuals may display one or more of the problems or "signs" detailed below.
Individuals who are at risk often do not receive any treatment because of perceived stigma, lack of financial resources, or access to clinical help for them and their family.
Everyone has normal ups and downs, and sadness when relationships aren't going as expected. Some people are at risk for a mental illness.
Two symptoms of depression are:
Sad or Irritable mood, most of the day, nearly every day and/or loss of enjoyment in most or all activities. These symptoms are of concern if they last more than two weeks.
These symptoms are of concern if they last more than two weeks.
When people are depressed, they view themselves and the world in a negative way. Some examples of thinking problems:
People with depression can also experience physical changes. Here are some examples:
A mental-health professional can make the diagnosis and help decide on the best treatment. Biology and stressful events can both worsen depression, so taking a good history can help the professional design a treatment plan--so your loved one can feel better again. The two most common treatments are talk therapy, and/or medication. There are people out there who want to help! To access help, talk with the family or peers. Only a parent can schedule an appointment for a depressed teenager.
If a teenager has a friend who has depression, especially if the friend is having suicidal feelings, attempts should be made to get the friend to tell his/her family or peers. If not, a teenager may have to risk a friendship by getting help for a friend. Hopefully, people will choose to break a secret and risk the friendship, if needed, to save a life.
Technically, a person has Bipolar Disorder if he/she has a manic episode. The definition of mania is listed below. How does a teenager experience Bipolar Disorder? Many people with Bipolar Disorder experience mood swings and temper outbursts, which are out of character for that person. The swings include highs (mania) and lows (depression). Some people with Bipolar have a week or two of manic symptoms, and later a depression of several months. However, with "mixed episodes" a person can jump from highs to lows several times per day. This is very confusing for the teenager with Bipolar Disorder who does not know what is happening. Family and friends of a teenager notice the mood swings shifts, and may suspect drugs or relationship problems, but, in most cases, these mood swings are caused by the mental illness.
Mania: The mood in mania may be Grandiose (confident, talking big, fearless), or Irritable (short tempered, quick to anger). Mania is a high-energy state, and often the teenager will talk more, talk faster, and talk louder than normal. When people are manic, they sleep less, and sometimes are highly creative with their energy (up all night writing poetry). People with mania may be easily distracted at school, yet at home they can throw themselves intensely into an activity that they choose. Thoughts are speeded-up, and some people describe "racing thoughts." Some with mania have an increased libido (sex drive), and are more likely to act out their feelings. Risk-taking can be a problem, with little regard for consequences, even if the person is normally cautious. If mania gets severe, people can become temporarily psychotic. A psychotic state means losing touch with reality, such as hearing or seeing things that are not there, or having paranoid ideas.
Schizophrenia is a complex illness or group of disorders characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and behavioral disturbances, disrupted social functioning, and associated symptoms in what is usually an otherwise clear thought process. Schizophrenia involves at least a six month period of continuous signs of the illness.
Active symptoms may include:
Negative symptoms, loss of normal functions may include:
Schizoaffective disorder - The term schizoaffective implies a combination of schizophrenia and an affective (or mood) disorder, which is actually quite acute. Symptoms include those for schizophrenia (see above) as well as a manic or mixed episode. The psychotic or schizophrenic like symptoms must be present without any disturbance in mood for a minimum of two weeks.
PTSD is a condition that affects individuals who have experienced a disturbing or frightening event. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder generally starts within three months of the event, however for some individuals it doesn't appear until much later. In any given year, 5.2 million Americans suffer from PTSD. Children and teenagers also suffer from PTSD. (Source: SAMHSA, www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov, accessed March 18, 2009)
Suicide Fifty percent of those who die by suicide were afflicted with major depression. The suicide rate of people with major depression is eight times that of the general population.
We don't really understand why, but we do know that those who feel hopeless or helpless just want the pain to go away. The pain is real and appears to last forever. Providing the opportunity to talk about the pressures that people face today, and offering an open means of communication, can provide an avenue for them to express their frustrations, rather than resorting to drastic forms of behavior.