Depression Screening

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents. It often stems from clinical depression and doctors want young people to consider being screened for depression. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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(Video voiceover)"I don't know what happened, I made a bad cup of coffee or something like that..."

A video about clinical depression is playing at the University of Houston's Psychology Research and Services Center.

(Video voiceover)"This is silly, why am I so upset about this. But there was something there that was bothering me. And . . . I couldn't figure it out and I couldn't get over it and . . . I don't know. 'Clinical depression is a medical illness consisting of multiple symptoms. Key symptoms are a loss of pleasure and a persistent sad or empty mood.'"

Doctors and graduate students there are screening college students, faculty and community members for signs of depression. UH Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Jeremy Pettit says depression affects a disproportionately high percentage of young people and no one knows why.

"Perhaps there's less social stigma with depression. People are more likely to endorse it, to talk about it, to admit that they're having this feeling. Maybe that's part of it. We're also seeing increase in drug usage, so maybe there's a link between substance abuse and depression. Others have suggested changes in family structure and home life over the past say 50 years or so have led to increased rates of depression. Bottom line is we don't know yet."

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have depression or another diagnosable mental disorder. In the year 2000, suicide was the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds. Pettit says anyone who is is having suicidal thoughts should call the suicice hotline -- 800-SUICIDE. And he says there are thousands of people who feel depressed and should seek an evaluation and possible treatment -- even if they're not thinking of harming themselves. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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