This weekend, a child who attends one of the local high schools in my city commit suicide. It was hard news to hear. Some of her friends and people who knew her said that they would have never expected that from her because she didn’t show any signs of depression; at least from what they saw. As a matter of fact, my own son saw her in the mall just Saturday and said she seemed social and happy. It made me realize that we have so far to go when it comes to knowing what depression is, recognizing it and trying to do something about it without sweeping it under the rug as if it is not real. Depression comes along with a lot of negative stigmas and many people would rather ignore its existence, but depression is very real, sometimes subliminal yet always has major effects.
Sometimes, children are depressed and we wonder what in the world they could possibly be depressed about. The truth is that it is not always something that anyone else can control and it’s not always easy to blame on someone, something or some event. Sometimes, the way children process things is very different that adults and sometimes, those depressed children go untreated and grow up to be depressed adults. Kendrick Lamar says in a song, “I’ve been dealing with depression ever since an adolescent.” Many adults can say the very same thing while others never make it to being adults.
In the hood, we often see a lot of frustration, anger and violence. The truth is that teen depression can often manifest itself in sadness and anger. Many of the children in the hood are depressed and therefore can react violently. They’re tired of the sirens, gunshots, their lights being cut off, ramen noodle meals every day and the whole life that they live. Many people, young and old, don’t even realize how their environments have altered their moods. Dr. Joy Degruy calls those factors that we deal with on a regular basis “urban hassles” and if you live in the hood, you know exactly what I mean. Then, there are those who do not live that kind of life, but may process life’s challenges or stress differently that others. They may be depressed because of their parents divorce, a recent move to a new city, a death in the family or maybe an uncle who touches them at night. All of those things can result in anyone being depressed. In the hood, there is this pressure to survive and be strong, but how can you do that if you are depressed? This is why many people suppress their emotions and don’t seek help. Doing so can result in a build up of dangerous emotions and hitting a breaking point. Biggie expressed this in his song “Suicidal Thoughts, rhyming, “The stress is buildin’ up…I can’t…I can’t believe/ suicide’s on my f***in’ mind, I want to leave.”
Statistically, white men are more likely to commit suicide than any other group of people. As a matter of fact, men commit suicide almost four times more often than women, with Blacks and Hispanics being the least common groups to commit suicide. This does not mean though that their depression should be ignored and could be related to the fact that men don’t reach out for help as often as those in other groups.
Here are some signs of depression and warning signs of suicide. Some of these signs may seems common to you. Do not however, take any of these signs lightly. If you suspect that something is wrong or if you are experiencing any of these symptoms as a child or adult, get help. Seek out therapists, guidance counselors, people or organizations in your area that work with teens, social workers, the local mobile crisis unit, hospitals, or anyone that will listen and assist.
– Frequent Crying
– Withdrawn from friends and family
– Not interested in doing things they used to do
– Sleeping too much or can’t fall asleep
– Tired more than normal
– Can’t concentrate on tasks
– Achy bodies
– Feelings of being worthless
– Destroying property
– Running away
– Reckless behavior
– Drug and alcohol use
– Hurting pets or other people (siblings, other family, peers, strangers, even elderly)
– Expressing a desire to be dead (jokingly, in their writings, making being dead sound good
– Thoughts or Acts of suicide (giving away personal items, searching for ways to kill themselves, self mutilating)
– Thoughts of homicide
Although any of these symptoms can be manifested in both teens and adults, keep in mind that many teens don’t show the typical symptoms that are usually associated with depression like sadness and crying. They’ll usually show more aggression and violence. In the hood, when these children act out, they’re called “thugs” or “animals”. In the suburbs, they’re called “troubled teens”. In the hood, when children’s grades begin to suffer, they are diagnosed with learning disabilities and placed in special education, while their suburban counterparts are given more access to resources that could help them to pick their grades back up.
There is definitely a disparity in the way depression is addressed between those in the hood and those in the suburbs, between people of color and whites, between men and women and between adults and children.
No matter what group you are in or if you are a teacher, parent or concerned friend, know that depression is real and should not go ignored. Reach out. Get some help.