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Notes on Depression and Suicide
Depression and Suicide
Youth depression affects many more children, adolescents and young adults in Oregon than most people realize. One study by Lewinsohn, et al., at the University of Oregon showed that more than 20% of a relatively large sample of high school students in our state had experienced at least one episode of major depression, either past or current. Based on this study, if you are a teacher with 30 students in your class, at least six of your students will have experienced clinically significant depression by adulthood? depression that causes problems at home, with peers, in the classroom and/or on the job. Of the several different types of depression, major depression is the most severe form and the one we need to be most aware of.

Upon reaching puberty, girls are affected by clinical depression twice as often as boys. Youth have been at increased risk for developing mild-to-moderate depression during the latter part of this century, showing some correlation with the sharp increase in the suicide rate during this time. Depression also affects children starting at a younger age than in the past?children as young as four years of age have been treated for depression.

While girls are three times more likely to attempt suicide, boys are three times more likely to die by suicide, in part because boys tend to use more lethal means (e.g., guns). Children younger than five years of age have been known to try to kill themselves; the youngest completed suicide in our state was that of a seven-year- old. Many of these deaths can be prevented if youth, parents and other adults learn to recognize the warning signs of depression and have the youth referred for mental health evaluation and treatment.

Depression is a medical illness that will likely affect the youth later in life, even after the initial episode improves. Youth who experience a major depressive episode have a 70% chance of having a second major depressive episode within five years. Many of the same problems that occurred with the first episode are likely to return, and may worsen.

a relatively large sample of high school students in Oregon had experienced at least one episode of major depression, either past or current.