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Save a Life from Suicide

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Andrew Koenig's grief-stricken parents made a heartwrenching plea for people to extend a hand to family members and friends who may be suffering from depression. Do you know the signs?

The body of Koenig -- who played "Boner" on the '80s sitcom "Growing Pains" -- was found in Stanley Park in Vancouver on Thursday, after he had been missing for a week. His family said he had been suffering from severe depression, and in the last few days of his life it was clear he was in distress.

According to the World Health Organization:

Depression is the second most common childhood mental-health problem.
• One in 33 kids is depressed.
• The number of kids diagnosed with the disorder could double by the year 2020.

Scary, huh?

Many parents don't seek help because they fear their kids will be stamped with the "mentally ill" label, while other parents dismiss their child's behavior as "just a phase." How can you tell the difference between someone who is moody and one who has a mental disorder?

Dr. Wendy Walsh
says that if one or more of these signs of depression persist, you should seek help for your loved one:

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
  • Decreased interest in activities, or an inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
  • Hopelessness
  • Persistent boredom, low energy
  • Social isolation, poor communication
  • Low self-esteem, guilt
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Increased irritability, anger or hostility
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Frequent absences from school, or poor performance in school
  • Poor concentration
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior

As for children, Dr. Walsh says that a depressed child -- who formerly played often with friends -- may now spend most of the time alone and without interests. Things that were once fun now bring little joy to the depressed child. Children and adolescents who are depressed may say they want to be dead, or may talk about suicide. Depressed adolescents may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way of trying to feel better.

The fact is, depressed children and adolescents are also at increased risk for committing suicide. But the good news is that depression is treatable. But the first step is reaching out a hand. Our hearts go out to the Koenig family and to all those who have lost loved ones to this devastating illness.

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