We invite you to engage in a hypothetical.
Say, for instance, school starts next week.
In California, it does.
So that’s not hypothetical.
But stick with us.
Let’s say school starts next week and your adolescent child has just received a clinical diagnosis indicating they have a mental health disorder.
Let’s say the diagnosis is depression.
Your teen has been diagnosed with MDD – Major Depressive Disorder.
The diagnosing psychiatrist strongly recommends 2-3 weeks of residential treatment for your adolescent child.
You trust this person and want to follow their advice.
School starts next week.
You think maybe school will help. You think maybe, just maybe, getting back into a routine will right the ship. You believe there’s an outside chance being around other teens, being busy with classes, and having the support of friends and the option of extracurricular activities will smooth out the rough edges that appeared this summer, and help turn things around.
In some cases, you’d be right.
However, if a licensed mental health professional diagnosed your teen with MDD and recommends residential treatment, we have something to say you need to hear.
We typically don’t come right out and say it like this, but if that’s the case – your teen has received a diagnosis for MDD – you’re wrong about school, friends, and a regular schedule turning things around.
Because a mental health disorder diagnosed by a licensed professional is serious and the best course of action is to follow their advice.
And school? It’s not going anywhere.
That’s one reason not to put off treatment because school starts next week: school will be there after treatment.
Here are five more.
Five Reasons Not to Put Off Treatment Because of School
- Clinical depression does not get better on its own. Being sad, bummed, and down in the dumps for a couple of days – that goes away. That’s not clinical depression. When depressive symptoms last every day for two weeks or more and your teen receives a diagnosis from a mental health professional, that means your teen needs help – full stop.
- The sooner your teen gets treatment, the better the outcome. Decades of data show that the earlier an individual enters treatment after receiving a diagnosis for a mental health disorder, the greater their chances are of successfully managing the symptoms of that disorder.
- Depression can lead to self-medication with alcohol or drugs. A mood disorder like depression is typically accompanied by extremely uncomfortable emotions. It’s common for people – including teens – to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain caused by these emotions. Alcohol or drug use can lead to an alcohol or substance use disorder. If this happens with your teen, they’ll have two mental health disorders to live with: a mood disorder and an alcohol or substance use disorder. Treatment – the sooner the better – can help reduce the chances of this happening.
- Social anxiety can increase depressive symptoms. The idea that school may help can backfire – especially if issues with peers played a role in the development of your teen’s depression in the first place. And if your teen is entering a new phase of school, such as making the transition from middle school to high school, the attendant social anxiety may be more pronounced.
- Academic pressure can increase anxiety, which, in turn, can exacerbate depressive symptoms. During the first few weeks of school – particularly high school – teachers have a tendency to pile on the work. Some do it as a trial by fire, while others do it to establish the new norms and expectations associated with a more advanced grade level. Whatever the case, a high workload can lead to increased anxiety and an uptick in depressive symptoms. For a teen who’s already clinically depressed, this is the last thing they need: what they need is treatment for their mood disorder.
Those five reasons should be enough to convince you not to put off treatment because school is starting next week.
We have one more.
It may be the most important reason or fact of all.
It’s a simple fact:
Hypothetically speaking, of couse.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.