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This Mālama Ola Minute focuses on teen depression and suicide prevention. Learn some positive parenting practices, including how to talk to your teen about anxiety and depression, in this column brought to you by the KS Health Services Department - Mālama Ola (To Care for Life).

Mālama Ola Minute: Teen depression and suicide prevention

Mar. 29, 2019

Depression is common among youth and is a significant factor impacting child well-being and academic success. In 2017 in Hawaiʻi, approximately one in three high school students statewide had periods of feeling sad or hopeless. One in six students seriously thought about suicide, and one in 10 attempted suicide. The rates are even higher for middle school students.

At KS, we understand the need for supporting the mental health of our haumāna to help them be successful both at school and in life. To better address our students’ mental health needs, we increased the number of behavioral health professionals on campus, implemented depression screening in students who visit middle or high school health rooms, and increased engagement with ʻohana. We also developed a protocol for assessing students with suicidal ideation that includes an assessment by a contracted psychiatrist if necessary.

Signs that a child may be depressed:
Here are some behavior changes that could indicate depression:

  • Excessive moodiness
  • Trouble focusing or making choices
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Withdrawal from friends or social groups
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness

Talking to your teen about anxiety and depression:
Here are some questions that can help start a conversation with your child:

  • Do you or any of your friends experience symptoms of anxiety or depression?
  • How would I be able to tell if you were feeling anxious or sad?
  • What do you do to help yourself feel better?
  • How can I help you when you’re feeling anxious or stressed?

How to help a suicidal teen:
Following are some recommendations for helping suicidal teens from Mental Health America, a national leader in mental health support, recovery and advocacy:

  • Offer help and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their feelings. Listen, don’t lecture.
  • Trust your instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek prompt help. Break a confidence if necessary, in order to save a life.
  • Pay attention to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly!
  • Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life — family, friends and teachers.


Parent resources

Student resources:

Crisis support
For a comprehensive list of crisis supports, see the Mālama Ola Student and ‘Ohana Resources web page. For additional support, please contact an on-campus KS behavioral health professional.

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