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Depression and Black Teens

By on September 5, 2016

Mental health concerns among Black teenagers is ongoing and significant. Parents need to understand the signs of depression in adolescents.

According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 15% of high school students reported suicidal thoughts in the past year and 7.8% made an actual suicide attempt. This is a national public health crisis that can be prevented with appropriate action being taking by parents and others who support youth. To help prevent suicide in Black adolescents, it is important to be aware of the warning signs and to take action.

Common Signs of Depression

If you notice several of the behavior or symptoms below it is important to seek help.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetiteand/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability


Suicide Warning Signs

In addition to recognizing symptoms of depression, if depression symptoms occur in combination with the behaviors below the risk of suicide are increased.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

If you know or think your child is experiencing these issues, the information below may be helpful.

  • National Suicide Prevention hotline (available 7 days a week) for free and confidential support 1-800-SUICIDE
  • Mental health treatment locator provided by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/MHTreatmentLocator/faces/quickSearch.jspx
  • You may also seek help through your local emergency room (ER) for crisis intervention.

For more information on mental health, stress, and parenting, you can also visit drerlangerturner.com.




Dr. Erlanger “Earl” Turner is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown and a Clinical Psychologist. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology for Texas A&M University and completed postdoctoral training at the Kennedy Krieger Institute through the Department of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Follow him @DrEarlTurner.

Photo of Dr. Turner taken by Stephanie Gross