Making a permanent impression since 1994
December 8, 2003
Depressed teens can get help
By Katie Jordan
Nobody is happy all the time.
But if your feelings of sadness seem to be permanent,
you may be clinically depressed.
John Mingel, program manager and counselor for the
Wheeler Clinic’s help line, said the 24-hour telephone outreach handles
about 30,000 calls a year, many of them from young people from the
“A good percentage would be teenagers,” Mingel
said. Teenagers everywhere suffer from depression.
Psychiatric nurse Kevin Toomey, who also teaches a
health class at Bristol Eastern High
School, said he absolutely sees depression in the
Depression, said Toomey, is “an extremely important
Toomey said that many students feel confused about who they are and where they’re going.
But confusion isn’t out of the ordinary for teens,
he said. And neither is being depressed.
“Depression is normal, but to stay depressed
isn’t,” said Toomey.
There are several important causes of depression in
high school students. Both Mingel and Toomey cited loss, rejection, and
abuse as the main reasons that teens become depressed.
“These are difficult problems for anyone,
especially an adolescent,” Mingel said.
Whatever the cause, depression can have some very
serious effects on teenagers.
Some teens turn to mood-altering drugs and alcohol in
an attempt to get over difficult emotions, said Mingel, but others may
take even more drastic measures.
“There is a direct connection between depression
and suicide,” Mingel said.
Mingel said that about 10 to 20 percent of calls to
the clinic’s suicide line are teens, although they also hear from all
other age groups.
Toomey also said he hears from suicidal teens.
Fortunately, those discussions are rare, he said. As a nurse, he’s also
seen cases where teens have tried to kill themselves.
But there are ways to help prevent these problems.
Although it’s obvious that more must be done,
Mingel said, the school system has made an effort to help depressed
There are guidance counselors, social workers, and
teachers who can talk to students about their problems, said Mingel.
According to Toomey, the opportunity to talk can be a big help to teens dealing with depression.
He said that teachers must try to create an
atmosphere where students feel safe to say what’s on their minds.
But teachers, social workers and counselors aren’t
the only ones who can help teens deal with depression.
Mingel recommended that teens reach out to each
other, as well.
Teens who have a friend who seems to be suffering
from depression, Mingel said, should talk to the person and listen to the
reasons they give for being upset.
Then, they should evaluate how severe the problem is,
he said. It’s important to keep communication going.
“Be supportive,” said Mingle.
But Mingel also stressed that teens should not swear
to keep secrets for a friend. If the person has a serious problem, Mingel
said, you should tell his or her parents
or the school system and get them the help they need.
There are also help lines, like those at Wheeler
Clinic. They’re confidential and callers speak to trained mental health
The number of Wheeler Clinic’s help line is
747-3434 for central
For the clinic’s suicide line, the number is
Teens who are depressed sometimes feel like they’re
alone. But the truth is, they aren’t.
“They can get help,” Mingel said.
|© 2003 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.|