Depression hits youth hardest, doctors encourage youth to explore alternatives to psychotropic drugs

January 12, 2010 by  

Canadians under 20 report the higher level of depression, and people between 20 and 29 years of age have the highest levels of anxiety, according to report issued in September by the Canadian Mood Disorders Society.

The most alarming statistics to come out of the report are that 90 per cent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness, and that suicide is the cause of death for 24 per cent of Canadians between 15 and 24 years of age, and 16 per cent of those between the ages of 20 and 29.

Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, and although 80 per cent of people with depression respond well to treatment, 90 per cent of those with depression don’t seek treatment.

“Depression, sometimes it’s a blessing,” said Dr. Hamdy El-Rayes, director of the H.R. Mental Wellness Centre, “because it stops you in your tracks and makes you reflect on the way you’re going and what you need to do.

“Medication does not solve the underlying issues that caused the depression or anxiety.”

El-Rayes said he feels that Canadian youth should explore all options before turning to medication.

He believes that empowering those who have depression or anxiety, and encouraging them to take charge,, is the only successful way to heal someone. El-Rayes said that being younger is an advantage for people, because they have more time to work out issues and aren’t as set in their ways.

Growing up with the Internet and easy access to information has made this generation more open to new ideas, but at the same time has inundated them with too much information.

“Everything is new, and so younger people are willing to accept anything that will help them,” El-Rayes said. From what he sees in his practice, he feels that younger people ask more questions, hesitate to take something just because they’re doctor said to, and are more aware of medication side effects than previous generations were.

Canadians turn to medication more often than not. According to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, Canadians are the largest users, on aper-capita basis, of psychiatric medications in the world. Canadians are also the secondlargest users of sedatives and the fourth-largest users of prescription narcotics in the world, according to the society. In 2006, there were 51 million prescriptions for psychiatric medications dispensed by Canadian pharmacies, a 32 per cent increase over the previous four years.

“You expect to be able to medicate yourself out of any problem,” said Paul Swingle, a Vancouver psycholo-gist, who argues that simply medicating a problem doesn’t address what caused it in the first place.

“That’s the alcoholic mentality, that you can avoid everything by getting plastered,” he said.

Swingle has seen the consequence of treating depression on the surface rather than at its source.

He has seen many women between the ages of 25 and 40 with a previously undiagnosed form of ADD known as High Frontal Alpha ADD. These women struggled in school, often couldn’t hold a job and, after becoming depressed, were put on a roster of medication to treat their depression. They went undiagnosed because the behaviour associated with the condition are talkativeness and flightiness.

“Since that fit our cultural stereotypes, these unfortunate young girls went undiagnosed,” said Swingle. “So they weren’t treated for the ADD, which created a reactive depression because of failure.”

The perception of drugs being the answer to emotional problems has been spread effectively by pharmaceutical advertising, which is legal in the U.S and Australia. But because American programing is prevalent on Canadian television, it’s common on our airwaves. A local therapist, Cindy Trevitt, said she feels that this is the greatest threat on the mental landscape for today’s youth.

“The implicit message is don’t feel bad ever, you should feel happy always and not experience life,” said Trevitt, a Vancouver counsellor. “It takes away from our ability to experience life. If I can feel sadness to its great depths I can also feel joy to its great heights.”

Trevitt argued that although today’s generation may be bombarded by this advertising, it is less influenced by it than previous generations.


Feel free to leave a comment...

For details on how we handle comments, select "Our Comment Policy" from the "About" drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Note: All comments are moderated and must be approved before they are published.