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Our adolescents are struggling on a level that has never been seen before. At Illumma, we get calls every day from the parents of children who are failing to thrive, who are clinically depressed and who are frozen by crippling anxiety. These parents are terrified that they have lost their children and may never get them back.

Teenagers are dealing with rapid changes to their bodies, hormones, academic pressure, helicopter parents and it doesn’t help that they’re trapped in an era of non-stop information overload that just moves faster and faster.

Teenagers growing up post 9/11 in a world with school shootings, terror attacks and dealing serious concerns about their safety. They’re also suffering from the downside of social media – constantly comparing themselves to others and that gnawing “fear of missing out” is a huge trigger of anxiety and depression in young adults and teenagers.

What’s even more alarming in the climbing suicide rate in children as young as 13 and 14, as well as the increased rate of depression in American girls.

Adolescents committing suicide

According to a Journal of the American Medical Association published in June 2019, the suicide rate among is the highest it’s been since 2000. “In 2017, there were 47 percent more suicides among people aged 15 to 19 than in the year 2000.” The increase among older teen boys raised the overall suicide rate for Americans ages 15 to 24 to its highest level since 1960, said Harvard University’s Oren Miron, the lead author of the new research.

With more than 6,200 suicides per year among people aged 15 to 24, suicide ranked as the second-leading cause of death for people in that age group in 2017.

What’s happening to our young girls

A recent study published by Pew Research Center says girls are now almost three times as likely as teen boys to have had recent experiences with depression.

“One-in-five teenage girls – or nearly 2.4 million – had experienced at least one major depressive episode (the proxy measure of depression used in this analysis) over the past year in 2017. By comparison, 7% of teenage boys (or 845,000) had at least one major depressive episode in the past 12 months.”

While teenage girls are more likely to have faced depression than their male peers, they are also more likely to have received treatment by seeing a professional or taking medication. This is encouraging news, because many girls are seeking help, but teenage boys are less likely to seek help. And they’re suffering too.

The statistics are staggering:

  • A study released in 2017 found that the number of children and adolescents admitted to children’s hospitals for thoughts of self-harm or suicide had more than doubled from 2008 to 2015, echoing trends in federal data.
  • Between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression among kids ages 14 to 17 increased by more than 60%, the study found. The increases were nearly as steep among those ages 12 to 13 (47%) and 18 to 21 (46%), and rates roughly doubled among those ages 20 to 21.
  • About three-in-ten teens (29%) said they felt tense or nervous about their day every or almost every day, and 45% said they felt tense or nervous sometimes.
  • About a third of teen girls (36%) reported feeling this way every day or almost every day, compared with 23% of teen boys.

Ketamine is saving suicidal children

In an article published in Scientific American, the use of ketamine infusion therapy for teens struggling with suicidal thoughts is explored with astonishing results.

As explained by Jack Turban MD MHS, a writer and resident child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, after ketamine IV therapy was administered to teens suffering from debilitating depression, he could “see the weight of depression lifted from these patients within hours.”

“Adolescents who were previously ready to end their own lives became bright and hopeful. Psychiatry has never seen a drug intervention so powerful and fast acting. While most anti-depressants take weeks to work and offer modest improvement, ketamine offers dramatic improvement in less than a day,” he says.

Dr. Michael Bloch, Yale child psychiatrist and principal investigator of several controlled trials for ketamine for adolescents, points out that the drug is only used for select patients who have severe mental health problems that have not responded to other treatments or medications.

At Illumma, we wholeheartedly agree with this recommendation for our young patients. We always weigh the theoretical risks of ketamine against the risk of suicide, self-harm or harm to others. When parents come in with deeply troubled young adults and teens who are likely to die from suicide or something like a drug overdose, the answer is obvious.

It’s up to parents to save their children

Now more than ever it’s critical for parents to lead by example. As Lynn Bufka, an associate executive director at the American Psychological Association explains, “It becomes really important for the adults around teens to be stable influences in their lives, to give them space for them to talk,” she said.

With ketamine infusion therapy, you can help your teens ease their symptoms of anxiety and depression, so they can learn or relearn the coping strategies they need to thrive. Ketamine IV can address other mental health problems that plague today’s teens like OCD, eating disorders and substance abuse. Teens with chronic pain conditions can also be treated successfully with ketamine IV therapy.

Don’t give up because there is hope

You have a chance to see the light in their eyes again. Stories like this Illumma patient, LT, who, at 19 years old, was brought in by her two, worried sick, parents that didn’t know what else to do. Within weeks that darkness had lifted and she was back to her “old self.”

A new school year is the chance for a new beginning. Let us help your child find their light again!