Children and Teens

At any given time, as many as one in 33 children and as many as one in eight adolescents may have clinical depression. (Center for Mental Health Services)

Symptoms of depression in children differ from adult symptoms. Warning signs are: increased activity or irritability, frequent complaints of stomachaches or headaches, poor school performance or excessive absence from school, persistent boredom, low energy, poor concentration, major changes in eating or sleep habits.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-15 year olds. (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry). The rate of suicide for 15-24 year olds has tripled since 1960.

Studies show that suicide attempts among young people may be based on long-standing problems triggered by a specific event.

Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings.

Of the 100,000 teenagers in juvenile detention, approximately 60 percent have behavioral and emotional problems. (Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)

Senior Citizens

Serious depression affects approximately 15 out of every 100 adults over the age of 65 in the United States. The percentage of those affected is much higher in hospitals and nursing homes.

As the brain and body age, a number of natural biochemical changes begin to take place which may place the older adult at greater risk for depression.

Suicide is more common in older people than in any other age group. The over-65 population accounts for more than 25 percent of the nation’s suicides.


One in four women is likely to experience severe depression in her lifetime. Only one-fifth will get the treatment they need. In general, women are statistically twice as likely to experience depression as men, although the difference is less pronounced between the ages of 44 and 65.

Other disorders associated with depression also occur more frequently in women. These include anxiety, sleep disorders, panic attacks and eating disorders.

Hormonal imbalances have been linked with increased depression among women.

Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)

At least 2 million people in America suffer from bipolar disorder, which is characterized by fluctuating episodes of severe mania — (high energy, little need for sleep, reckless behavior, unrealistic expectations, excessive high or euphoric feelings) — and severe depression.

Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues through life. It is, however, highly treatable with medication.

Bipolar disorder can be confused with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, so careful diagnosis is necessary. It rarely occurs in children under 12.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of depression in the winter months, which subside in the spring and summer months, can be a sign of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is related to circadian rhythm — our biological internal clock. In winter months, our biological clock can become out of step with our daily schedules.

Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, has been linked to SAD. Its production levels increase in the dark.

Phototherapy (bright light therapy) can suppress the brain’s secretion of melatonin.

General Facts

Talking therapy (psychotherapy, cognitive or interpersonal) with a trained professional is highly effective in treating depression. Short-term therapy (10-20 weeks) may be all that is necessary.

Antidepressant medication is recommended, along with other therapy, for more severe episodes of clinical depression.

Antidepressants are not habit-forming. It may take as little as one week or as many as eight weeks to notice improvement. It is usually recommended that medication be taken for at least four to nine months, not merely until depressive symptoms have improved. A common mistake is to stop taking medication too soon.

Private insurance or HMOs usually cover treatments for depression. If you have no insurance, some private clinics or community public health programs offer services on a sliding scale.

Suicides result in 32,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. In 1994, there were 110,000 hospitalizations for suicide attempts. It is estimated one in 10 attempts is successful. In the year following an unsuccessful suicide
attempt, the risk of a completed suicide is 100 times greater than normal.

Up to 70 percent of suicide victims suffered from major depression or bipolar disorder. The rate of suicide for alcoholics and drug abusers is three to five times the average.

Alcohol and street drugs can be both a cause and a symptom of depression.

Interestingly, both positive and negative events can trigger depression. In other words, the anxiety that can accompany a significant change — even one for the better — can induce depressive episodes.

Medical problems, such as thyroid disease, can cause depression, but can also be masked by it. Side effects of certain prescription drugs can also cause depression.