The Need to Recognize Depression in Youth

Dr. Mani Balu, Monroeville, PA


Editor’s Note: Dr. Mani Balu is one of the early Indians to settle down in Southwest Pennsylvania.  For over three decades he practiced pediatric medicine in Union Town, PA.  After retiring from his practice, he and his wife Shantha now live in Monroeville. PA.

On May 27, 2013 we lost our dear daughter Geetha, 35, to depression. She ended her life after suffering from depression for fifteen long years.

This article is not intended to publicize her illness or our grief. As a father and a pediatrician, my aim through this article is to make people aware of depression.

In general, people do not recognize depression in themselves or in their loved ones early. Even if they suspect it, either they neglect it, deny it or think that it is due to some other illness and put the person through many medical tests. As a pediatrician, I see this problem in my patients, when the teenagers are brought to me with symptoms suggestive of depression. When I tell the parents that I suspect depression in their daughter or son, neither have they believed it nor wanted to accept it. As a result of this, the diagnosis and proper treatment are delayed or even denied. I hope this article will help everyone understand the problem and seek medical help promptly.

First of all, we need to understand that depression is a chronic disease due to chemical imbalance in the brain. As of yet, we do not know the cause of this. It is more common in girls. It has a genetic predisposition too. If a parent, grandparent, sibling or other close relative has or has had this problem, we should realize there is more chance for the youth to have depression.

More importantly, as the causes of depression are not known, there are no preventive measures. So please do not feel guilty that you could have done something more to prevent it.

Realizing the seriousness of depression and the importance of its early detection and proper and prompt treatment, the American Academy of Pediatrics has instructed all pediatricians in the United States to ask the following questions to all girls and boys between the ages of 15 and 18 years to diagnose the condition early, during their yearly physical check ups. (Depression can start earlier or later also.)

  1. Do you have little interest or pleasure in doing things?
  2. Do you feel down, depressed, irritable or hopeless?
  3. Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep?
  4. Do you feel tired or have little energy to do things?
  5. Are you experiencing poor appetite, weight loss, overeating or weight gain?
  6. Do you feel bad about yourself or feel you are a failure or have let yourself and your family down?
  7. Do you have trouble concentrating on things, such as schoolwork, reading or watching TV?  Do you avoid friends and prefer to be alone most of the time?
  8. Do you move or speak so slowly that other people notice OR conversely, are you fidgety, restless and worried all the time?
  9. Do you have thoughts that you would be better off dead or would like to hurt yourself in some way?

Hopefully this article will help in the early diagnosis and prompt treatment of someone who may be suffering.

As for Geetha, she herself suspected that she might have depression when she was living in the college dorms and she told me about it. The diagnosis was confirmed soon and the treatment was started promptly.

For fifteen long years, she had all kinds of treatment: Allopathy, Homeopathy and even Tirupati (Venkateshwara). Hers was a severe case of depression which took her away from us.

I still feel confident that, in the future, we will have a better understanding of the disease with better outcomes. So please, do not give up hope.  ♦

  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.