Depression and Suicide

Major Disruptions in Development

Many young people go through adolescence without any problems, however, some will experience serious difficulties. These difficulties are caused by a variety of factors that can combine to have specific and difficult outcomes.


Depression is the most common psychological problem of adolescence. About 15-20% of teenager have had one or more major depressive episodes (Berk, 2007). Unfortunately, many adults and peers do not realize, or notice the seriousness of depression in adolescence because they believe it to be a "phase."

Signs of Depression

  • A strong, continuing feeling of hopelessness, sadness, and frustration.
  • A change in appetite, reduced or excessive consumption.
  • Strong disturbances in sleep, loss of sleep or excessive sleeping.
  • Disturbances in concentration and changes in energy levels.
  • Many adolescents lose interest in most activities that once brought them happiness (Berk, 2007).

Factors Related to Depression

  • Genetics can affect the possibility of depression by changing the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, the development of the negative emotion inhibitors in the brain, or the body's hormonal reaction to stress.
  • Depression and other psychological disorders are often seen in parents of depressed adolescents.
  • Maladaptive parenting.
  • An impairment on a adolescent's self-esteem, self-regulation, and attachment.
  • Depressed adolescents often have a learned-helplessness attribution style.
  • Stressful life events that the youth does not know how to properly handle (Berk, 2007).
These factors can differ based on the individual.

Study of Vulnerability Factors for Depression

  • Body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint or lack of restraint.
  • One's perception of their Body Mass Index (BMI).
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Perceived lack of support.
The study examined the roles of the factors to explain the trajectory of depressive symptoms, and to determine how each of predictors explain depression symptoms (Rawana & Morgan, 2014).

Gender Differences

Girls are more prone to depression than boys because:

  • Stressful life events
  • Gender-typed coping styles; they cause girls to display passivity, dependency, participation in rumination.
Adolescents who display more feminine characteristics, regardless of what their sex is, are more likely to become depressed and develop poor coping styles (Berk, 2007).
Deep depression often leads to self-harm and suicidal thoughts, which then often become actions.


The rate of suicide steadily increases over the lifespan, however, it jumps sharply during adolescence. Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among youths in America. This could possibly be from youths experiencing more stress and receiving less support than before (Berk, 2007).

Signs that Indicate a Possible Suicide

  • Smoothing over troubled relationships.
  • Giving away personal possessions.
  • Saying goodbye to family members and friends.
  • Making indirect and direct references to suicide, ("I wish I were dead.")
  • "Not caring" anymore.
  • Extreme fatigue, lack of energy, and feelings of boredom.
  • Withdrawal from people.
  • Easily frustrated, hostile.
  • Emotional outbursts, such as spells of crying or laughing.
  • Easily distracted.
  • Discipline problems, trouble in school.
  • Neglect of personal appearance.
  • Loss of or excessive sleeping.
  • Physical complaints of aches (Berk, 2007).

Factors Related to Suicide

  • Family poverty.
  • School failure.
  • Alcohol and drug use.
  • Depression.
  • Peer victimization .
  • Often have a family history of emotional and antisocial disorders.
  • Often have experienced many stressful life events.
  • Youth's improved ability to plan ahead.
  • Belief in the personal fable.
Suicide tends to occur in two types of people:

  1. Youths who are highly intelligent who are solitary, withdrawn, and unable to meet their own standards.
  2. Youths with antisocial tendencies and engage in bullying, fighting, stealing, and drug abuse (Berk, 2007).

Study of Gender Specific Personality Differences in Suicide

The study found that suicide ideation to be higher among females compared to males.

Gender differences in suicide ideation may be attributed to young females who are vulnerable to internalizing disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders which are well known predictors of suicide ideation. Young female are more likely to engage in suicidal thinking (Singh & Rani, 2014).

Treatments and Prevention


  • Treatments range from antidepressant medications to family, group, and individual therapies.
  • It is very important to remove any weapons and drugs from the home, until the youth has improved (Berk, 2007).


  • Parents and teachers need to be trained on picking up the signs of depression and suicide in adolescents.
  • Schools and organizations can provide counseling and support centers.
  • It is very important to listen, trust, and express compassion toward the youth (Berk, 2007).


Singh, U., & Rani, K. (2014). Gender-specific personality differentials of suicide ideation among adolescents. Journal Of Projective Psychology & Mental Health, 21(2), 81-89.

Rawana, J. S., & Morgan, A. S. (2014). Trajectories of depressive symptoms from adolescence to young adulthood: The role of self-esteem and body-related predictors. Journal Of Youth And Adolescence, 43(4), 597-611. doi:10.1007/s10964-013-9995-4

Berk, L. (2007). Adolescence: The Transition to Adulthood. In Development through the lifespan (5th ed., pp. 421-423). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.