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Why Some Families Hesitate to Get Help
Recognizing Depression in Youth

In the last decade, there have been significant advances in the treatment of depression, as well as in educating the public about depression. Despite this, some parents may hesitate to have their child referred for an evaluation. The reasons for this hesitation can include the following:

  • Warning signs are not recognized. Teachers, physicians, etc. should point out these warning signs to the parents, so that the youth can then receive a formal mental health evaluation.

  • A belief that their child is experiencing "normal" adolescence. Clinical depression is not a normal part of adolescence. It causes persistent problems until the youth receives sufficient treatment.

  • A perception that their child has "good reason" to be depressed (e.g., when the youth has another medical illness like cancer, has been abused or is in a juvenile detention facility). It is important to recognize that depression can improve with treatment; it can lead to death if not treated.

  • A concern that the youth might be viewed as "crazy" or weak in character. Depressed youth are experiencing a medical illness with physical causes, similiar to other medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma.

  • The family does not have insurance. Many low-income youth are eligible for the Oregon Health Plan or CHIP (Children?s Health Insurance Program). Some mental health centers also have sliding scale fees.

  • Hope that their youth will "get over it." Unfortunately, depression persists and will continue to cause problems for the youth, family, schools and community until it is treated.

  • One or more family members are clinically depressed. They may benefit from their own treatment.

  • The youth refuses treatment. Youth should not have a choice if there are safety concerns or if problems persist.

It is important to note that the earlier depression is evaluated and treated, the easier it is to treat and the less likely it is that tragedies such as death by suicide or homicide will occur. All alcohol and drug treatment providers need to closely evaluate youth for depression in addition to evaluating the substance use problems; otherwise, problems often return after the depressed youth finishes the treatment program.