Teen Depression: The Power of Prevention & Intervention

Teens who are depressed are at risk of taking their lives. In fact, suicide is so common among those with teen depression that it’s becoming a serious mental health concern. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) calls teen suicide “a public health issue”, and they acknowledge that there is something that communities and families can do about teen suicide. SAMSA recognizes that suicide is “preventable”.


With therapy, the aide of community, and psycho-education, the lives of those considering suicide might be saved. And these types of preventative measures are crucial for teens. Because of the developmental stage they are in, they have the tendency to think from the emotional parts of their brain. The logical and reasoning parts of the brain aren’t yet fully developed. It might be easy for teens to jump to suicidal thinking without taking into the account the likelihood that life will change in the years ahead.


For instance, the grey matter of the brain, which contains most of the brain’s neurons and is known as the part of the brain that thinks, is still growing in teens. Alongside this is the still developing frontal cortex, which completes its growth during ages 23-26. The frontal cortex performs reasoning, planning, judgment, and impulse control, necessities for being an adult. This might explain a teen’s tendency to make poor decisions, to base their decisions on their emotions, and to think short-term rather than long-term. Teens tend to experiment with risky behavior and don’t fully recognize the consequences of their choices.


It’s easy for a teen to dismiss the fact that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yet, it’s hard to have such a perspective with teen depression. Depression is debilitating in that it affects perception and the way that teens view their relationships, their future, and their very existence. Perhaps that’s why studies show that almost all adolescents who commit suicide suffer from depression. At the same time, the number of adolescents who attempt suicide is far higher than those who actually take their life. Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death of adolescents. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that there are as many as 25 attempts of suicide to every one that is actually committed. Male teens are four more times likely to die from suicide, whereas female adolescents are more likely to make suicide attempts. Although there are many reasons that might cause a suicide attempt, the most common is depression. Other causes include divorce of parents, domestic violence, lack of success or progress in school, feelings of unworthiness, death of a loved one, and others.


Ways to prevent suicide is to communicate to teens how finite a solution it is – there’s not taking your life back. Communicating that the inherent trait of life is change might provide hope and deter them from taking suicide seriously. Of course, another way to prevent suicide is to treat depression. It is widely known within the mental health field that the treatment of depression is most effective when both medication and psychotherapy are used together. It appears that the two forms of treatment enhance the effectiveness of the other.  For this reason, although psychotherapy alone may not be proven to prevent suicide, it can, combined with medication, effectively treat teen depression, and in the long run, prevent the chances of those teens considering taking their lives.


If you’re a parent, intervening when you see a depressed teen is worth it! Even if your child responds that he or she doesn’t want to see a therapist or that he or she doesn’t want to attend a group therapy session with other teens, communicating that you care is important. And it can be the beginning of an ongoing conversation. At the very least, if you’re a caregiver, you can monitor the behavior of your teen closely and talk to other adults in his or her life.


Teen suicide is preventable! That message alone can save a teen’s life.




Coady, J. (May 29, 2014). Suicide Prevention: What’s Your Role? Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved on June 13, 2014 on http://blog.samhsa.gov/2014/05/29/suicide-prevention-whats-your-role/#.U5s8DyS0ZJ0