Most teens unable to identify depression

Many Irish teenagers are unable to identify signs of depression or suicidal thoughts, a new study shows.

Most teens unable to identify depression

The majority will also turn more to friends than professionals for advice, according to new research on mental health literacy among adolescents conducted by psychologists at Trinity College Dublin.

The research, which has been published in the July edition of the Journal of Adolescent Research, has found that only half of participants in the study correctly identified depression in hypothetical case studies and only 10% correctly identified thoughts about suicide.

Additionally, the study found that participants were unable to identify appropriate treatment for peers experiencing depression and a sizeable minority of young people did not recognise the importance of adult help for a friend experiencing emotional distress.

One third of all participants said they would only involve their peer-group in the provision of help for a depressed friend.

Overall, the findings of this study, which involved 187 adolescents aged between 15 and 19, indicates that while Irish adolescents with depression may prefer support from friends instead of seeking support from a professional, it is unlikely that their friends will be able to recognise their symptoms.

The study paints a worrying picture of Irish teenagers’ knowledge of mental health issues, according to postgraduate student Sadhbh Byrne who conducted the research with Dr Lorraine Swords and Dr Elizabeth Nixon of the School of Psychology and Children’s Research Centre in Trinity.

“While the majority of adolescents in our study showed great concern for a friend experiencing distress, their specific knowledge of the characteristics of mental disorders and potential suicidality was lacking.

"The identification of depression is considered an important component of mental health literacy and is critical in helping an individual to access help,” she added.

“We know from previous research that approximately 20% of young Irish people show symptoms of mental health problems, of which depression is the most concerning, given the strong link with suicide. Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide in Europe among 15- to 24-year-olds.

“Our research points to the need to educate young people about the need to seek adult help for a friend experiencing emotional distress.”

Meanwhile, family doctors are being urged to be vigilant when prescribing medication after a study found the combined use of antidepressant medicines and pain relief such as ibuprofen could increase the risk of bleeding.

A study published in the British Medical Journal has found antidepressants may interact with common painkillers — called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — to increase the risk of a brain haemorrhage.

A study in South Korea involving more than four million people enrolled in the country’s health service found that combined use of antidepressants and NSAIDs was associated with an increased bleeding risk.

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