Detroit Today

Is The Mental Health Of Teens An Issue In The Shadows?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Last weekend during the Academy Awards, short documentary winner Dana Perry told the audience and viewers her teenage son committed suicide, and she encouraged a national dialogue about suicide.

Are the issues of teen mental health, depression and suicide topics that exist primarily in the shadows of society?

Hosts Laura Weber-Davis and Stephen Henderson speak with CEO of the Human Power Project, Ross Szabo, about discussing teen mental health issues and how to eliminate the stigma of mental illness.

Szabo feels that the conversation about teen mental health has advanced during the past decade. He says the conversation still needs to be expanded, especially with respect to education.

“Students learn about their physical health from kindergarten through 12th grade every single year, and across the country there is very rarely, if any, education on their mental health," he says.

Teenagers present especially difficult cases when it comes to mental health, according to Szabo. He says it is hard to tell, especially without education, whether a teenager is going through normal teenage doldrums or suffering from something more severe.

Major behavioral changes are a warning sign Szabo says to look out for. He says even a change that occurs over the course of one day might warrant a conversation to check in and make sure everything is alright.

There aren't always warning signs, he says. Szabo had his own experience with an attempted suicide when he was a teenager, and he says that he is a good example of a person no one expected to try suicide.

“When I was hospitalized for attempting to take my own life I wasn’t on anyone’s radar," he says. "I was first in my class, I was a varsity athlete, I was involved in every student activity possible, no teacher was going to see that something was wrong with me and call my parent."

Szabo is the keynote speaker at the Jewish Federation community-wide conference "The Dark Secret of Teen Mental Illness" on Sunday, March 1, at West Bloomfield High School.