A Silent Killer: Depressed Youth

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In any campus survey today, youth indicate that the top factors affecting their academic performance are things like sore throats, headaches, feeling tired and run-down, non-descript abdominal, “stomach” or chest pain. These complaints in themselves could be a specific isolated illnesses, however they could also be a somatic complaint of an underlying condition.

Canada has a higher rate of youth suicide than many other countries, such as the United States or United Kingdom. It is the number one killer of men aged 25 to 29. Young men in the prime of life, often attending post-secondary institutions. Young men are not the only victims of suicide, however they are less likely than young women to seek counseling and due to the impulsivity and selection of more lethal suicide methods, they are four times more likely to succeed.

The front line workers or health care professionals in college/university health centers play a key role in identifying these young people through their understanding of youth and the problems that affect them. It is necessary for these professionals to obtain an accurate history, which includes physical, psychological, social, emotional, and family data. Listening with all your senses, not for the words singularly, but to body language, dress, hygiene, the overall demeanor and also to what is not being spoken.

When youth are suspect of a mental illness, stress, anxiety or depression, it is important not only to refer them to appropriate supports, but also to keep in touch and ensure that they continue to have a link with a caregiver who understands their situation. Since these individuals usually have recurring episodes it is important to keep in regular contact with them and if possible remain an active member of their care team – even just a quick hello and smile can be supportive.

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