An article on teenage depression appeared in the Connecticut Mirror on February 1st It talked about a sheet of only nine questions. Surprisingly the questionnaire does cause mental health problems to surface.
According to pediatrician Dr. Robert Dudley he was skeptical about its use; after all he had known many of the kids since birth. But he found different issues surfaced from having his patients fill out that small questionnaire. One of his patients had been cutting herself and the questionnaire opened the door to talking about it. Another was experiencing a great deal of stress that pointed to depression and the doctor was able to talk about a “toolbox” that the teen could use, directing him positively to a mental health professional.
If a 50 year old suddenly became quiet and sullen, we would be quick to point to depression but with a teenager we often think it is simple another hormone kicking into place. With teenage depression on the rise and the tendency of parents and professionals alike to chalk up so much of the behavior to the “the teenage years”, the possibility that something as simple as 9 questions could help in pinpointing teens at risk is a big deal.
“No sweeping rules can be applied to all kids,” says Dr. Christopher Bellonci, a certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and Medical Director at The Walker Home and School in Boston. “A parent or caregiver, has to have a good idea as to what your particular child’s baseline is like — because what you’re looking for is a deviation from that baseline.” Adolescence is full of change – bodies, peer groups, school settings. In addition, the teens are expected to do more and more on their own. When you try to determine if the behavior is normal or springs from depression, it can be difficult even when you know the child.
So if nine questions will help someone bring a mental health challenge out into the open, I say more power to it. But with everything, we have to be cautious that it doesn’t become an easy way of labeling. Let it serve only to open the door to questions and exploration and getting the help when needed should something arise from those questions. And cudos to Doctor Dudley who is willing to open himself to new ways of dealing with his patients.