Depression meds give students options

She stopped eating in middle school. It wasn’t an eating disorder, but junior Allison Turner’s* appetite still began to dwindle rapidly. If she managed to get anything down, she felt sick to her stomach. Turner soon discovered her eating habits were just a side-effect of a bigger problem – depression.

“You have to eat to live,” Turner said. “I knew I needed to do something. I got myself into this hole that I couldn’t get out of and that’s what made me seek help.”

With her sister soon leaving for college and a string of depression in her family, Turner realized she needed to seek help and went to a psychiatrist. She was soon diagnosed with depression.

“You’re really tired,” Turner said. “You don’t want to do anything. Everything you usually enjoy just kind of goes down the tube. I remember missing almost a week and a half of school and all I did was sleep.”

Turner’s psychiatrist put her on Zoloft, a medication that increases the brain’s amount of serotonin which helps maintain mental balance.

“If I don’t take it for two days, I can feel it,” Turner said. “I’m already emotional as it is, so when I don’t take it, I can definitely feel it. But it makes me really tired so I take it at night.”

Besides Zoloft, Prozac and Lexapro are other popular depression medications. Some parents believe medications increase the risk of suicide in teenagers, but Dr. Jane Miles, a psychiatrist based in Dallas, said this isn’t true and medications are extremely beneficial.

“There is no evidence that antidepressants actually increase the risk of suicide,” Miles said. “For moderate to severe depression, the potential benefits from medication treatment seem to outweigh the potential risks.”

While Turner was officially diagnosed with depression, not all students seek help or want to take medication. Junior Sarah Mott* hasn’t been diagnosed, but her family history of depression and experience of the obvious symptoms are both likely signs. Like Turner, Mott’s feelings began in middle school, but she kept her feelings to herself.

“I was stubborn and didn’t think I needed to see anybody,” Mott said. “I didn’t want to have to go to my parents and tell them I was depressed.”

While Miles recommends all students seek help, medication isn’t the only option. Various forms of psychotherapy and working with the family for support are beneficial as well.

“Some parents refuse to accept the fact that their child has depression,” Miles said. “Some have a general principle “the less pills the better.” While it is not a professional treatment, the patient’s friends and family are indispensable in providing a supportive environment.”

For Mott, her feelings of depression drove her to a point where she began to hurt herself. When she finally realized that she couldn’t live like that anymore, her best friend Carrie* was there for help.

“She talked me through everything,” Mott said. “She told me that I’m important to her and if something happened to me, she’d be devastated. She’s kind of what kept me here.”