Running head TEEN DEPRESSION SUICIDE by MikeJenny


									                                                         Teen Depression & Suicide   1


               Teen Depression & Suicide in the United States

                              Katheryn Moran

                      Western Washington University
                                                    Teen Depression & Suicide   2

                                Table of Contents

Introduction & Research Statement                                       3

Literature Review                                                       3-7

Research Methods                                                        7-9

Results & Discussion                                                    9-11

References Cited                                                        12-13

Appendix                                                                14

Abstract                                                                15
                                                                   Teen Depression & Suicide   3

Introduction & Research Statement

       There are a variety of issues that teens in America face on a daily basis

alongside the growing pains that every developing adolescent experiences. Depression

and suicide amongst teens in America are serious issues that are prominent in my mind

and deserve a closer examination of the possible links between the two. There have

been studies done to find reasons for depression and suicide in teens, whether or not

these reasons link to parents or child rearing and the kinds of environments that are

more likely to cultivate depression or suicidal thoughts amongst adolescents. I would

like to research all of these topics and ask the overarching question: What are the

triggers and links in a teenager’s life to bring on depression and/or suicidal thoughts and

are there any ways to prevent them?

Literature Review

              Depression is categorized as the most common psychiatric disorder in the

United States and has become increasingly recognized to begin in adolescence (Facts

for Families, 2008). It is a disorder that affects emotions, thoughts, sense of self,

behaviors, interpersonal relations, physical functioning, biological processes, work

productivity and overall quality of life (Hankin, 2006, p.102). There are varying degrees

of depression ranging from mild to severe clinical depression. It is important to

recognize that individuals of all ages can be victims of depression. Categorizing by

degree of severity ignores criteria that are developmentally sensitive over the life span.

For example, preschoolers are less likely to report depressive symptoms than

adolescents who are obviously more educated, developmentally and socially mature
                                                                   Teen Depression & Suicide   4

(Hankin, 2006, p. 103). However, we should not assume that different ages experience

depression any more or any less. Rather, their emotions may correspond directly to

their age, knowledge and experience and cause different reactions (Hankin, 2006, p.


        There are a variety of triggers for depression in any individual. Hankin (2006)

claims that the most promising approach to understanding causes of depression in

youth is through a vulnerability-stress framework. Almost all individuals with a

depressive disorder have experienced at least one negative event in their life before the

onset of depression. In a three-wave, one year longitudinal study Hankin (2006) found a

dramatic increase in the number of uncontrollable negative life events experienced

starting at age thirteen (p. 105). The most typical stressors that contribute to the onset

of depression include social outcasting, parental divorce, a drastic change in

environment, self-doubt, financial uncertainty and pressure to succeed and fit in (Facts

for Families, 2008).

        Stress, however, is not the only link to depression. Lyons-Ruth, Wolfe, &

Lyubchik (2000) believe that parental depression is related to a wide range of impaired

developmental outcomes in children and can be a leading factor in the onset of

depression. Their research shows that “children of depressed mothers show greater

social, behavioral and academic impairment than children of non-depressed mothers,

from infancy to adolescence” (p. 148). Due to the negative interactions and relationships

this child is exposed to, it makes sense that they would be more prone to the

development of similar personality traits and characteristics. “Children of depressed

mothers are more likely to have psychological symptoms, treatment for emotional
                                                                   Teen Depression & Suicide   5

problems, suicidal behavior and psychiatric diagnoses” (Lyons-Ruth, Wolfe, & Lyubchik,

2000, p. 148).

       Other life obstacles and hindrances that teens typically face include substance

abuse; mental illness; impulsive, aggressive, and antisocial behavior; a variety of family

factors; and increased access to firearms by the at-risk population (Centers for Disease

Control, 1995). All of these have been documented as direct causes of increased odds

of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts population (Centers for Disease

Control, 1995). Depending on the population type, some individuals are more

susceptible to increased depression and suicidal thoughts simply due to their

environment and history. Those teens that do indulge in the use of substances are at a

much higher risk than those who abstain (Hallfors, Waller, Ford, Halpern, Brodish, &

Iritani,, 2004, p. 224). Depending on the age, statistics show that some girls are more

likely to attempt suicide than boys (Gore, 2008).

       Whether we are predisposed to it, if it is caused by stress or we were exposed to

it from birth, depression is all around us. Unfortunately, depression is the number one

cause of suicide among teenagers in the U.S. (Facts for Families, 2008). Suicide among

teenagers in America has crept up to the third leading cause of death among individuals

between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four. Each year thousands of teenagers resort to

suicide (“Facts for Families”, 2008). It is important to understand why all of the

previously mentioned triggers so significantly impact the life of a teenager. By

understanding this and recognizing symptoms of depression early on, perhaps we can

begin to decrease the number of people affected by depression and haunted by suicide.

       Beginning the installation of a variety of different kinds of educational and
                                                                  Teen Depression & Suicide   6

preventative programs around the country has already positively effected many people’s

lives in America. McArt., Shulman, & Gajary (1999) proposed the idea of a community

intervention system in New York to begin mending the relationship between community

and teen. They did so by creating an open workshop space for teens to discuss and

share themselves and their experiences. They also offered classes to educate teens

about the resources at their disposal in their own community. This program focused

extensively on “help-seeking strategies” when faced with an emotional crisis and

improving access to mental health crisis services. (McArt., Shulman, & Gajary , 1999,

p. 3). This program allowed for group healing and a social process that brought people

together to create a support system and also taught self help and empowerment


       “Many adolescents do not obtain services they need because the services are

not known to them or to their families, and are not perceived to be readily accessible”

(McArt., Shulman, & Gajary , 1999, p. 2). By raising awareness about depression in this

New York community, more teens felt they had a support system to turn to that had not

existed before.

       Lyons-Ruth, Wolfe, & Lyubchik believe that this gap in services could be

addressed by developing family-support teams as collaborative services between

psychiatry and pediatric services beginning at the birth of the child (2000, p. 152).

Recognizing that the early environment of a child has a serious impact on their

development, providing services from the beginning may halt any early depression

symptoms and provide the family with the tools necessary to seek help if needed later

on. By combining the expertise of a family psychiatrist and pediatrician, a wrap around
                                                                    Teen Depression & Suicide   7

service can be implemented for the family and hopefully build a support web of current

developmental knowledge and clinical skill in working with parents and infants (Lyons-

Ruth, Wolfe, & Lyubchik, 2000, p. 152).

       Raising awareness of depression and creating supports for families and

individuals to seek out in their own communities have proven to be one of the most

effective tools in exposing the reality of the situation and beginning the healing process

(Lyons-Ruth, Wolfe, & Lyubchik, 2000, p. 148).

Research Methods

              I have chosen to focus on the impact of the family and environment on youth

development. I plan to conduct my research using a probability sampling method, much like

the Commonwealth Study mentioned by Lyons-Ruth, Wolfe & Lyubchik (2000). I also plan

to limit my research to the city of Bellingham. By using the cluster sampling method I can

find each household in Bellingham that houses teenagers between the ages of 13-18.

According to current Bellingham demographics, there are approximately 6,000 teenagers in

the city (AreaConnect, 2000). Once I have found these houses I can use a simple random

sampling method to decide which households I will send questionnaires to. I am aiming for

a representative sample of about half of the population, so I plan to send around 3,500


       Questionnaires will be sent not only to the teenager(s) within the home, but also

to the parent(s). I am interested in finding out the current social, emotional and cognitive

status of the adolescent(s) and parent(s) and what experiences or situations may be

affecting that youth’s current lifestyle. The following is a sample of the questions I will

be sending to my participants:
                                                                    Teen Depression & Suicide   8

       Sent to teens:
       Do you feel depressed?
       Do you feel satisfied?
       Have you ever experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings?
       Are you often physically active in your current lifestyle?
       Do you enjoy social outings?
       Do you feel comfortable at home?
       Do you feel that you can approach your family or close friends with problems you face?

       Sent to parents:
       Do you feel depressed?
       Do you feel satisfied?
       Have you ever experienced any type of depression?
       Are you often physically active in your current lifestyle?
       Do you enjoy social outings?
       Do you ever worry that you child may be facing depression?
       Do you sense any links between your child’s behavior and the way you raised them?

       Each question will be followed by the numbers one through four and directions

will ask the participant to circle the number that best corresponds to their answer. The

number one will correspond to the answer never, four corresponding to always. I plan

to leave a section at the bottom of the survey encouraging participants to include any

extra information that they desire, but I am aware that this may not accumulate much


       Although I plan to survey the adolescent and parent separately, I recognize the

importance of obtaining permission for gathering information from minors and the

sensitivity of this subject. So, I plan to mail both questionnaires in one envelope. The

contents will be headed with a description of the research and a permission slip for the

parent or legal guardian of the participant to sign and return with the survey. This will be

followed by reassurance of the confidentiality of this information and it’s use strictly as a

way of improving services for depression in Bellingham as a whole. I also plan to
                                                                   Teen Depression & Suicide   9

include information regarding supports and counseling systems that are available to

participants if needed after the involvement in this research.

       I feel that the results of this survey will be reliable because these questions are

straightforward and relatively easy to answer. By using the vocabulary always and

never to describe the occurrence of feelings and situations, the choice is made clear

and obvious to the participant. I feel that the questions I am asking are blunt and require

honest answers. I feel that these answers will confirm existing links between adolescent

behaviors and lifestyles and their family members or disprove these beliefs.

       I plan to take all collected data and find the average outcome for each answer for

teenager and parent. By randomly selecting my participants I am able to assume that

my sample is representative of the majority of adolescents and families with teens in the

Bellingham area and apply my results to a larger population.

Results & Discussion

       I received 2,000 surveys back after mailing 3,500. Each survey returned included

data for both parents and teens along with the consent forms needed. The results were

somewhat surprising in that I had expected a strong link between parental depression

and adolescent depression. Instead, I found depression to be more prominent in adults

alongside lack of satisfaction. However, It did seem that adolescents found themselves

to be less depressed and more satisfied in direct correlation to how active and social

their current lifestyle was. It seemed that a majority of teens felt comfortable at home

and had a feeling of support from friends and family. Those parents that did report
                                                                  Teen Depression & Suicide 10

feeling worried about their children also reported seeing significant links between their

child rearing practices and their child’s behavior.

       Will this data does not necessarily support the link between parental depression

and it’s link to possible causation or influence on teen depression, it does show the

importance of recognizing depression as an issue many people face. With this data I

see depression as a problem that is significant in the Bellingham population and should

be addressed immediately. By installing forms of previously discussed preventative and

educational programs, I think many teenagers and adults would feel more comfortable

discussing their experiences with depression and beginning to sort through those

emotions to find the root problem. I think these programs can lead to a happier,

healthier community and encourage community bonding and understanding.

                                Adolescent Survey Results

                             1=Never 2=Sometimes     3=Usually     4=Always
Depressed?                         100           900           700                           300
Satisfied?                         300           800           700                           200
Suicidal Thoughts?                 300           900           550                           350
Physically Active?                 250           500           400                           350
Social?                            350         1150            250                           250
Comfortable at Home?               400           300         1000                            300
Support System?                    350           350         1000                            300

                                 Parental Survey Results

                             1=Never 2=Sometimes     3=Usually     4=Always
Depressed?                         600           600           300                           500
Satisfied?                         400           600           600                           400
Suicidal Thoughts?                 300           900           700                           100
Physically Active?                 700           400           600                           300
Social?                            400           800           300                           500
Worry About Kids?                  200           900           500                           400
Child Rearing Links?               300           700           600                           400
                                                                                                                Teen Depression & Suicide 11

Number of Teens                                      Adolescent Survery Results

                     400                                                                                                 1=Never
                                        d?                                                                               2=Sometimes


                                                                 l. .




                                                                                        r t.










                                                            Questions Asked

                                                           Parental Survey Results
Number of Parents

                     200                                                                                                 1=Never
















                                                            Questions Asked
                                                                  Teen Depression & Suicide 12


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2008). Facts for families: Teen

       suicide. (2008, May). Retrieved July 6, 2009, from

AreaConnect (2000). Bellingham city, Washington statistics and demographics. Retrieved

       August 8, 2009, from

Centers for Disease Control. (1995). Suicide among children, adolescents, and young

       adults. United States, 1980-1992. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 44, 289-


Chess, S., & Hertzig, M. E. (1989). Annual progress in child psychiatry and child

       development 1989: A selection of the year's outstanding contributions to the

       understanding and treatment of the normal and disturbed child. New York:

       Brunner Mazel.

Dube, R. S., Anda, R. F., Felitti, J. V., Chapman, D. P., Williamson, D. F., & Giles, W. H.

       (2001). Childhood abuse, household dysfunction, and the risk of attempted

       suicide throughout the life span: Findings from the adverse childhood experience

       study. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 286, 3089-3096.

       Retrieved July 5, 2009, from the ProQuest database.

Gore, K. A. (2008). Social integration and gender differences in adolescent depression:

       School context, friendship groups, and romantic relations. Retrieved July 3,

       2009, from the ProQuest database.
                                                                    Teen Depression & Suicide 13

Hallfors, D. D., Waller, M. W., Ford, C. A., Halpern, C. T., Brodish, P. H., & Iritani, B.

        (2004). Adolescent depression and suicide risk: Association with sex and drug

        behavior. American Journal of of Preventive Medicine, 27, 224-231. Retrieved

        July 5, 2009, from the ProQuest database.

Hankin, B. L. (2006). Adolescent depression: Description, causes and interventions.

       Epilepsy & Behavior, 8(1 ), 102-114. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from the

       ProQuest database.

Lyons-Ruth, K., Wolfe, R., Lyubchik, A. (2000). Depression and the parenting of young

       children: Making the case for early preventative mental health services. Harvard

       Review of Psychiatry, 8(3), 148-153.

McArt, E. W., Shulman, D. A., & Gajary, E. (1999). Developing an educational workshop

       on teen depression and suicide: A proactive community intervention. Child

       Welfare Journal, 78(6), 793-806. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from the EBSCO


Reifman, A., & Windle, M. (1995). Adolescent suicidal behaviors as a function of

       depression, hopelessness, alcohol use, and social support: A longitudinal

       investigation. American Journal of Community Psychology: Behavioral Science,

       23(3), 329-354.

Solomon, C. (2009). Parent’s depression and its relation to adolescent suicide attempts.

       Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences. Retrieved July 6, 2009,

Teen Depression & Suicide 14
                                                                  Teen Depression & Suicide 15


       Depression and suicide amongst teens in America are serious issues that are

prominent and deserve a closer examination of the possible causes. There have been

studies done to find reasons for depression and suicide in teens, whether or not these

reasons link to parents or child rearing and the kinds of environments that are more

likely to cultivate depression or suicidal thoughts amongst adolescents. I ask the

question: What are the triggers and links in a teenager’s life to bring on depression

and/or suicidal thoughts and are there any ways to prevent them?

       Though there are a variety of situations and experiences that can cultivate

depression, stress, environment and sociability have the most significant impacts.

Research done by Hankin (2006) suggests that the only way for us to truly understand a

teen’s depression is through a vulnerability-stress framework. Lyons-Ruth, Wolfe, &

Lyubchik (2000) argue that parental depression and early environment play the most

critical role in the development of depression.

       In my own research I could very clearly see the impacts of depression on lifestyle

and satisfaction with one’s own life that brought me to conclude that preventative and

educational systems need to be put in place throughout America to begin the

breakdown of depression and commonality of suicide.

       A few different successful approaches to preventative and educational systems

are discussed in this paper alongside facts and results from other similar studies that

suggest something be done, and soon.

To top