Mental Health News

3 “Invisible” Risks Linked to Adolescent Depression

3 “Invisible” Risks Linked to Adolescent Depression

Adolescents with a triad of low physical activity, high media use, and reduced sleep comprise an ‘invisible-risk’ group that displays a high prevalence of depression and psychiatric symptoms. The findings of this new international study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet are published in the February 2014 issue of World Psychiatry.

For the study over 12,000 adolescents (14-16 years old) in eleven European countries responded to questionnaires charting different risk behaviors and their link to psychiatric symptoms. According to researchers, “As many as nearly 30 percent of the adolescents clustered in the ‘invisible’ group showed a high level of psychopathological symptoms.”

While the ‘high’ risk groups are traditionally easy to identify based on behavioral problems or alcohol and drug use—parents and teachers are often unaware that adolescents in the ‘invisible’ risk group are at risk, according to Vladimir Carli, at the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health (NASP) at Karolinska Institutet, first author of the study.

Statistical analyses of the results identified three risk groups among the adolescents. Individuals who scored high on all examined risk behaviors clustered in the ‘high-risk’ group (13% of the adolescents). The ‘low-risk’ group (58%) consisted of responders who had no or very low frequency of risk behaviors.

In an unexpected finding, a third group—which the researchers labelled the ‘invisible-risk’ group—was identified. Youths in this group were characterized by a combination of: high media use, sedentary behavior, and reduced sleep. These behaviors are generally not associated with mental health problems by observers such as teachers and parents. Surprisingly, adolescents in the ‘invisible’ risk group had similar prevalence of suicidal thoughts, anxiety, subthreshold depression and major depression as the ‘high’ risk group.

The study is the first to estimate the overall prevalence of a wider range of risk behaviors and lifestyles and their association with mental health issues among European adolescents. The results indicate that both risk behaviors and psychopathology are relatively common in this population.

Invisible risk behaviors like heavy media use, lack of physical activity, and reduced sleep can become habitual. Over time the depressive symptoms caused by these lifestyle choices can potentially snowball leading to psychopathology. Early identification and interventions could prevent these three ‘invisible risks’ from leading to emotional psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.

Lack of Sleep Can Trigger Genetic Risk for Depressive Symptoms

Two other recent studies of adult twins and adolescents both found a link between sleep duration and depression. A new study of 1,788 twins is the first to demonstrate a geneenvironment interaction between habitual sleep duration and depressive symptoms. Another study of 4,175 individuals between 11 and 17 years of age is the first to document reciprocal effects for major depression and short sleep duration among adolescents.

A study titled “Sleep Duration and Depressive Symptoms: A Gene-Environment Interaction” of adult twins and a community-based study of adolescents reported links between sleep duration and depression. The findings are published in the February 1, 2014 issue of the journal Sleep.

Principal investigator of the study, Dr. Nathaniel Watson, associate professor of neurology and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle concludes that optimizing sleep may be one way to maximize the effectiveness of treatments for depression such as psychotherapy.

Another study of 4,175 individuals between 11 and 17 years of age is the first to document reciprocal effects for major depression and short sleep duration among adolescents using prospective data. The results suggest that sleeping six hours or less per night increases the risk for major depression. This creates a double whammy because depression itself increases the risk for insomnia among adolescents.

“These results are important because they suggest that sleep deprivation may be a precursor for major depression in adolescents, occurring before other symptoms of major depression and additional mood disorders,” said principal investigator Dr. Robert E. Roberts, professor of behavioral sciences in the School of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Roberts recommends, “Questions on sleep disturbance and hours of sleep should be part of the medical history of adolescents to ascertain risk.”

“Healthy sleep is a necessity for physical, mental and emotional well-being,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. M. Safwan Badr. “This new research emphasizes that we can make an investment in our health by prioritizing sleep.”

Conclusion: The Statistics of Depression are Alarming

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about nine percent of adults in the U.S. meet the criteria for current depression, including four percent with major depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that depressive disorders have affected approximately 11 percent of U.S. teens at some point during their lives, and three percent have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder.

Clearly, there are no easy answers for combating depression. In a recent Psychology Today blog post titled, “Revolutionary Ideas About the Science of Depression” I interviewed Jonathan Rottenberg about his new book, “The Depths”, which offers valuable insights on ways to help individuals pull out of depression.

One of Rottenberg’s observations is that early improvers from depression tend to “do the right things” as early as possible. These include: remaining physically active, staying socially connected, getting enough sleep, reducing screen time, eating nutritious foods, and achieving small daily goals.

Posted Feb 04, 2014

Inventory #: 15

Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) report, Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines, is the first-ever comprehensive, strategic document outlining how communities can effectively respond to the devastating impact of suicide loss.

To read the report, click here

Inventory #: 11

School-wide prevention program lowers teen suicide risk

This article from Reuters  discusses the efficacy of a school-based suicide prevention program in Europe.

Click here to see the full article on the Reuters website.

Inventory #: 10

The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What it Means for Schools

Click the link below to read the CDC’s brochure on the relationship between bullying and suicide.  The brochure includes recommendations for schools as they respond to bullying.

Inventory #: 5

SAMSHA launches free suicide prevention app

Suicide Safe: The Suicide Prevention App for Health Care Providers
Free from SAMHSA

For individuals at risk of suicide, behavioral health and primary care settings provide unique opportunities to connect with the health care system and access effective treatment. Almost half (45%) of individuals who die by suicide have visited a primary care provider in the month prior to their death, and 20% have had contact with mental health services.1

Suicide Safe, SAMHSA’s new suicide prevention app for mobile devices and optimized for tablets, helps providers integrate suicide prevention strategies into their practice and address suicide risk among their patients. Suicide Safe is a free app based on SAMHSA’s Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) card.

SAMHSA’s Suicide Safe helps providers:

  • Learn how to use the SAFE-T approach when working with patients.
  • Explore interactive sample case studies and see the SAFE-T in action through case scenarios and tips.
  • Quickly access and share information, including crisis lines, fact sheets, educational opportunities, and treatment resources.
  • Browse conversation starters that provide sample language and tips for talking with patients who may be in need of suicide intervention.
  • Locate treatment options, filter by type and distance, and share locations and resources to provide timely referrals for patients.

Suicide Safe, SAMHSA’s free suicide prevention app, is available for iOS® and Android™ mobile devices.

**content taken from SAMHSA website.  To see original page, click here.

Inventory #: 11 is a major new national campaign designed to fight stigma around mental health and to educate people on recognizing the signs of emotional suffering. Click on the button to the left to see the campaign website.

Inventory #: 10

Fairfax County Public Schools 2015 Community Conversation on Teen Stress

Fairfax County Public Schools held their second annual community conversation on teen stress on Saturday, May 9th.   Students, parents and community members were invited to attend presentations on many topics related to teen stress, mental health, and mental wellness. Click here to see FCPS Summit Materials, the topics covered, and view materials for many presentations.


Inventory #: 9

Behavioral Health Barometer, 2014

Presents data about key aspects of substance use and mental health care issues, including rates of serious mental illness, suicidal thoughts, substance use, underage drinking, and the percentages of those who seek treatment for these disorders.

Inventory #: SMA15-4895

SAMHSA Enrollment and Outreach Resources

Lists resources outreach programs can use to ensure people with mental and/or substance use disorders benefit from health reform. Resources address diverse populations, including the homeless, those within the criminal justice system, and more.

Inventory #: PEP15-ACARESOURCE

SAMHSA Suicide Safe Mobile App

Equips providers with education and support resources to assess patients’ risk of suicide, communicate effectively with patients and families, determine appropriate next steps, and make referrals to treatment and community resources.

Inventory #: PEP15-SAFEAPP1