Asking for Help: Antidepressants

Sequoia Snogren-McGinnis

Behind AHS’s pretty red and white colors lies a student body suffering from an often-hidden problem: depression.

Many have hesitations around antidepressants. Reasons for reluctance can be the monetary cost or the idea that the antidepressant could become a “crutch,” create “fake happiness,” or become addictive. Antidepressants are not addictive in the ways alcohol and opioids are.

It is also a common belief that medication is unnecessary. Conditional factors associated with depression include home life, stress and drug use. In addition, the tech age and the related phenomena of information overload, life moving fast, screen addiction and demand for high performance are hypothesized to contribute to depression. “Some parents feel that teens need to ‘deal with it,’” expresses local psychotherapist Fern Snogren, LCSW, MA, CHT. She feels that society needs to change, giving youth less to “deal with.” Contrary to many parents’ beliefs, teens need to be given the benefit of the doubt when experiencing depressive symptoms and parents need to keep an eye on their teenagers’ mental health, Snogren believes.

An interview with an AHS student about depression revealed that the student’s parents initially wanted them to continue talk therapy, which they had done since the age of four. This talk therapy, however, yielded little improvement with their mental health. Snogren says that it takes a unique skillset to be a talk therapist for teenagers. As a result, youth feel that it is ineffective.

The student said that getting their parents’ permission to start antidepressants was a major hurdle. It wasn’t until they ended up in the hospital that their parents finally understood “the gravity of what I was trying to tell them.”

The student attempted suicide multiple times before getting help. Let that sink in.

The first two attempts were out of an insatiable “need to get out of all the things [they were] experiencing.” After a while the student began to feel better, but despite feeling less urgency to end their life, they knew they still needed their struggle with depression to be attended to. “I figured [that] maybe if you let yourself fall even farther, someone will notice,” they said.

“If someone breaks their leg,” the student comments, “you give them a crutch. You know the saying, they’re just looking for attention? Yes. They are looking for attention. They are struggling.” That phrase must be destigmatized, the student urged, because people seek attention for a reason.

“No teen, when all other things have been tried, should remain depressed,” Snogren says. Inaction can cause the brain to be accustomed to depression, becoming their “natural and only response to life.” Adolescence is an important time in brain development and the goal is for that brain to stop being depressed. “This [depression] is a danger just as grave as the possible dangers of antidepressants,” Snogren states.