Easter Seals Getting Help for Teen Depression
Jillian Lustig is among the reported 16 percent of Michigan high school students who have considered suicide. Here's how she got help – and what parents should know.
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When Laura Lustig's daughter, Jillian, started at a new school, she knew there would be some tough days for her eighth-grader. Yet her daughter's occasional blues soon turned into days of constant tears.
Lustig understood some of the reasons for her daughter's sadness. She expected that Jillian would experience emotional ups and downs during her pre-teen and teenage years. Then there was the death of Jillian's grandmother when she was 7. Jillian, who had been extremely close to her grandmother, had gone through periods of depression since then. She also knew that students at her daughter's school had been harassing Jillian, both in classes, on the bus, and even at her home.
"At first, I didn't feel like I had anyone to talk to," Jillian remembers of that difficult time. She worried that the kids who were hurting her might end up bullying other kids, too, if she became their friend. She started to withdraw from others – even family members.
"I was kind of that kid who sat on the bus alone and cried." She couldn't think of a way out of her situation. Thoughts of ending her life began to enter her mind.
Lustig tried to talk her daughter through her pain. But recognizing that Jillian was overtaken with sadness in the way she had been after her grandmother's death, Lustig contacted Easter Seals Michigan for help.
Jillian worked with a counselor to talk about coping strategies for her depression. Along with those individual sessions, Lustig and her daughter took advantage of programs where they learned how to talk more effectively to one another to resolve issues. Jillian's Easter Seals counselor also approached school administrators to address the bullying Jillian was experiencing. It took nearly a year before Jillian felt like herself again.
Now 15, Jillian credits her time with her Easter Seals counselor as helping her work through her depression. She says the Easter Seals programs available for her mom were also a big benefit, guiding her mom in knowing what to say and how to act as Jillian battled something that was way more than a case of typical teenage blues.
"I used to be so depressed and I'd just sit there and wouldn't do anything," explains Jillian. "I can still remember feeling so bad that I didn't know what to do and the only way I could think of escaping was suicide."
A common experience
Experiences like Jillian's are not unique. Nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, "For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third-leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year."
Closer to home, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) found 16 percent of all Michigan public high school students "reported having seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months." The national rate, by comparison, was 13.8 percent.
Even more startling, for every 11 Michigan public high school students, one has reported attempting suicide "one or more times in the past year." Of those, 3 percent needed medical attention after their attempt. (Death rates for males of all ages were four times higher than that of females when it comes to suicide.)
Signs to look for
For parents wondering if their teen is suffering from depression, there are several signs to look for. Mental health experts, including those at the MDCH, define depressive feelings as when a youth is feeling "so sad or hopeless, almost every day for two weeks or more in a row, that the person stopped doing some of their usual activities."