Watching: DEPRESSION: Out of the Shadows
Chapter 2: Depression in Adolescents [9:35]
Adolescent depression can go undiagnosed when mistaken for typical teen behaviors. Emily and Hart tell their stories.
Transcript: Chapter 2 - Depression in Adolescents
NARRATION: (EMMA DRIVING) For Emma, the onset of her depression was not tied to a single event. Her symptoms unfolded early, beginning at age eleven.
EMMA: (VO, EMMA DRIVING) I started feeling kind of lonely and just separate from the other kids.
EMMA: (OC) I thought all my friends were feeling the same way, that it was just kind of a part of life and that I was just weak because I couldn't deal with it,
NARRATION: (EMMA WALKING) The onset of clinical depression most typically presents itself between the ages of 15 to 34, but the disease is often missed in adolescence because it can be mistaken for normal teenage behavior.
EMMA: (VO, EMMA WALKING) I mean, they talk about on those depression surveys, "Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy?" And I never really understood that
EMMA: (OC) because I didn't remember ever enjoying anything.
EMMA: (VO, TREES SWIRLING) It's, like the dementors in Harry Potter, how they kind of suck all the happiness out of you, and they suck all your good memories-
EMMA: (VO, FROZEN GROUND) it's like the world goes cold.
DR. MYRNA WEISSMAN: (VO, EMMA SITTING BY WATER) when we're talking about clinical depression, we mean depression that goes on for several weeks in which the symptoms happen almost every single day. So what are these symptoms? There's feeling sad and blue, feeling guilty, feeling hopeless and helpless,
MYRNA WEISSMAN: (OC) having problems of sleeping and eating and feeling life is just not worth living.
JULIE SCHUMACKER: (OC) You imagine as a parent that it would never happen to your kid. Here we are,
JULIE SCHUMACKER: (VO, PARIS FAMILY PHOTO) an intact family, no divorce, no history of depression.
NARRATION: (PARIS FAMILY PHOTO) Emma masked behavior she herself did not understand.
EMMA: (VO, PARIS FAMILY PHOTO) I don't know how much
EMMA: (OC, EMMA SITTING WITH FAMILY) I necessarily, like, lied to them, necessarily, like, before things started getting really bad. I just wasn't completely honest. Like, I started getting depressed in, like, fifth grade.
EMMA: (VO, EMMA 5TH GRADE PHOTO) And I didn't say anything until I was about to be a sophomore in high school.
LARRY: (VO, EMMA 5TH GRADE PHOTO) The signs that you would look for, like, doing bad in school
LARRY: (VO, FAMILY PHOTO) or being isolated, the stuff you would read in a textbook, we didn't see anything like that. It was just--
LARRY: (OC, DAD SITTING WITH FAMILY) On the surface, everything was doing great. And then it was like a meteorite just smashed into our house.
EMMA: (OC, EMMA SITTING WITH FAMILY) I was really good at playing the role that I felt like I was supposed to play.
LARRY: (OC, DAD SITTING WITH FAMILY) So that's the trap I think parents could fall into, which is, we have such high expectations of our kids.
LARRY: (VO, CU OF EMMA) The kids meet those expectations
LARRY: (OC, DAD SITTING WITH FAMILY) outwardly, even while they're crumbling inwardly.
NARRATION: (EMMA LOOKING AT PHOTO ALBUM) As time went on, Emma's symptoms escalated. To the outside world, she was just a teenager acting out.
EMMA: (VO, EMMA LOOKING AT PHOTO ALBUM) I started drinking. That kind of got a little bit out of hand. My friends
EMMA: (OC) told me that I was drinking too much and they told me to try to stop drinking. And I found that it wasn't easy to stop drinking so I started smoking pot a lot.
EMMA: (VO, EMMA LOOKING AT PHOTO ALBUM) I was, gonna take a bottle of Tylenol and slit my wrists or something along those lines, But instead, I-- I was, like, no, no, you have to do something about this
EMMA: (OC) And I basically went downstairs and told my dad. Like, I was just, like, "I want to kill myself." And he was kind of, like, trying to talk to me, like, "Well, what's going on," you know, "Why do you feel so sad?" And I just started screaming and crying and I just fell over onto the floor. And he picked me up, kind of, like, holding me up so I wouldn't drag on the floor...(inaudible) "What did you take? What did you take?" And I was, like, "I didn't take anything." Like, "This is me sober." Like-- I mean, he still thinks I was high that night when we talked. But I was just so horribly depressed.
NARRATION: (EMMA TIME-LAPSE ON STAIRS) This was a turning point. Emma's parents sought psychiatric help, supported by medication. When those therapies failed, they resorted to inpatient hospitalization.
EMMA: (VO, EMMA WALKING UP STAIRS) While I was in treatment, I was mad at the counselors for something. And I was screaming and, you know, throwing a temper tantrum on the floor,
EMMA: (OC) And the staff, like, dragged me into the living room and I tried to strangle myself with my sweatshirt cords. And the staff had me to hold for, like, the rest of the night. And I attacked several staff members and-- I just-- I mean, I don't really even remember it.
NARRATION: (PHOTO OF EMMA) When treatment at the local hospital failed, the family felt they had no other recourse, but to send Emma away to a specialized residential facility.
LARRY: (VO, PHOTO OF EMMA) I think the hardest part was, um, when we were just kind of hitting a wall and Emma had been hospitalized several times, uh,
LARRY: (OC) coming to the conclusion that we had to look at other options. And we spent, uh, some time working with a national educational consultant, looking at different residential programs. And for a parent, that was one of the hardest things imaginable, to think that the person you love so much
LARRY: (VO, CU OF EMMA) and that you were so devoted to was someone that you could not really care for anymore.
JULIE: (VO, CU OF LARRY) And to send her away when she was ill,
JULIE: (OC) you know, that-- That was the worst thing, to drop your child off in another state when you think her life is in danger, and to drive away. It's nearly impossible to do. It was-- it was, um-- But we also felt like it was the only chance we had left. We had tried everything else.
NARRATION: (ALARM CLOCK RINGS, HART LIPTON TURNS OFF) Unlike Emma, some cases of depression can be so severe that they are impossible to miss. Hart Liptons's world began to close in on him in sixth grade.
HART LIPTON: (VO, HART LIPTON IN BED) For me it was going to sleep, just locking myself in my room. I just felt like there was no escape. It was like--
HART LIPTON: (OC) a black hole, like, once you come in there, you just can't come back out, just blackness.
NARRATION: (HART LIPTON IN BED) In time, Hart's depression spiraled even deeper.
NARRATION: (WENDY LIPTON IN ART STUDIO) Although he was under the close watch of his parents, he became afraid that he might end his life and asked to be taken to a hospital.
WENDY LIPTON: (VO, WENDY LIPTON IN ART STUDIO) My husband made a surreally slow motion trip to a hospital following the ambulance that was carrying him. The lights were quietly flashing but there was no siren. My perfect child seemed to want to sacrifice himself.
WENDY LIPTON: (VO, WENDY LIPTON IN ART STUDIO) I brought these two kids into the world and for one of them
WENDY LIPTON: (OC) To not enjoy life, to be tired of life itself, and to not want to participate in life is-- nothing else even matters. That's-- It's the saddest thing that I could ever hear.
NARRATION: (LIPTON FAMILY WALKING IN FLAT IRON RANGE) Hart Lipton suffers from bipolar illness, a disorder related to depression or unipolar depression. Bipolar illness manifests itself in a variety of ways and is characterized by moods, which can swing dramatically between depression and euphoria or between depression and a more intense irritable state.
ELLEN LIEBENLUFT: (VO, LIPTON FAMILY WALKING IN FLAT IRON RANGE) Bipolar disorder is one of the most heritable psychiatric illnesses. And in fact, bipolar disorder
ELLEN LIEBENLUFT: (OC) is what we call more heritable than is unipolar depression, okay? So the genetic part of bipolar disorder is particularly strong.
NARRATION: (HART LIPTON PLAYING VIDEO GAMES) Multiple conflicting symptoms in Hart made his diagnosis especially challenging. He displayed signs of attention deficit disorder, which his doctor suggested might be contributing to his depression.
JOSH LIPTON: (VO, HART LIPTON PLAYING VIDEO GAMES) Teenage and adolescent behaviors are complex and scary and defiant.
JOSH LIPTON: (OC) But there was a point, which kind of we had to accept that he was really starting to be in pain.
NARRATION: (HART LIPTON PLAYING BASKETBALL) Hart began therapy and was put on an anti-depressant. He was also given medication for attention deficit disorder, which made his depression worse and was discontinued.
Hart, seeking relief, turned to cutting.
HART LIPTON: (VO, HART LIPTON'S WRIST) You can see my wrists. They've been cut too.
HART LIPTON: (OC) I tried it. Some people get a kick out of it. Hurting yourself, you feel this pain and you don't feel this pain so much.
NARRATION: (HART LIPTON WITH CLASSMATES) By ninth grade, Hart's self-destructive behaviors forced his parents to monitor his every move.
WENDY LIPTON: (VO, HART LIPTON WITH CLASSMATES) They just have to be kept safe and you have to take away anything that could be used to hurt themselves - knives, medicine, all those kinds of things. And I think in a way it feels very regressive, almost like
WENDY LIPTON: (OC) you're never gonna have your independence again.
JOSH LIPTON: (VO, JOSH LIPTON PLAYING PIANO) And you would sit, you know, like all day, you would just be wondering, are you gonna
JOSH LIPTON: (OC) hear from him that he's suicidal that day? Is he-- Actually, you know, talk to your son about, is he feeling like hurting himself.
NARRATION: (JOSH LIPTON PLAYING PIANO) The Lipton family put their life on hold, watching and waiting. They knew the threat of adolescent suicide was very real.
Help support programs and websites like this one.
Pledge to your local public station.