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Special Report: More kids diagnosed with mental illness. - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Special Report: More kids diagnosed with mental illness.

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CORPUS CHRISTI -

All parents have one thing in common; they worry about their kids. But something alarming is happening with our children-- more of them are being diagnosed with depression or anxiety. 

KRIS 6 spoke with a 10-year-old girl recently diagnosed with panic disorder. She explained often feeling out-of-control and anxious. 

"You feel lost, you feel so overwhelmed," said D, whose identity we withheld to protect her privacy. 

"One time [I had a panic attack]...at lunch and it was really loud in there, so it was hard for me to calm down," added D. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America describes panic attacks as a sudden feeling of fear or being uncomfortable. People having an episode experience heart palpitations, sweat and feel short of breath. Those symptoms can last up to ten minutes before the person experiencing them feels some relief. Those symptoms are confusing for anyone, especially children. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of children ages 13-18 have/will have a serious mental illness. Researchers say that number is eight times greater than it was decades ago. 

https://www.nami.org/getattachment/Learn-More/Mental-Health-by-the-Numbers/childrenmhfacts.pdf 

"I do think with social media and technology, I think that has definitely increased stress levels among children," said Dr. Jennifer Gerlach, a licensed school counselor and counseling professor at TAMUCC. 

Dr. Gerlach said adolescent depression can be influenced by genetics or situations. There are clear symptoms of the condition. 

"If they're withdrawn. If you've seen a major drop in their grades. If they're losing interest in things, sleeping more...or not sleeping at all." 

But detecting depression isn't always black and white. That's why Dr. Gerlach advises parents to ask their kids how they're feeling.  

"It can be really challenging to identify the differences between depression and what's developmentally normal behavior or typical behavior in that age range, because there's moodiness, there's irritability, they withdraw...because they're asserting their independence," stated Dr. Gerlach. 

Symptoms of depression also vary, depending on age. 

"Older teens can be a little more expressive about it." 

Younger kids tend to be more isolated. Abran Rodriguez, counselor at Driscoll Middle School works with 11-14 year old students. 

"Our age group is basically dealing with an identity crisis. So developmentally, they are looking for who they are. They’re trying to discover who they are," explained Rodriguez. 

That's why early treatment is key. 

"It leads to better outcomes because you're getting it earlier. The longer it goes being untreated, the worse it can get," said Dr. Gerlach. 

Knowing that, D's parents took their daughter to a doctor, who diagnosed D with panic disorder. D takes medication and told KRIS 6 she feels better. 

"I feel really calm and I don't feel as overwhelmed." 

Rodriguez recommends parents who suspect their children are depressed, get in touch with their child's school. 

"We want to be preventative and we want to make sure they have the right coping tools to be successful," said Rodriguez. 

If you'd like counseling, there are free resources in Corpus Christi. You can visit the Antonio Garcia Center. Here's more information about the facility: 

http://garciacenter.tamucc.edu/programs/support_programs/counseling/index.html

You can also contact the Counseling and Training Clinic: 

http://ctc.tamucc.edu/

Reading on your phone? It's better with the app. Download the KRIS 6 News Mobile App for iOS/iPhone here and for Android here.

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