Anti-Depressants for Teens & Young Adults

Parent Q&A

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  • 24 year old daughter has severe “period related” depression.  I had same thing and never treated it (mistake). She’s been prescribed Lexapro. Anyone have experience good or bad? Thank you so much from both of us.

    Please ignore this if you've already thought about this route, but in case you haven't, I wanted to say that I had the same thing, and it went away with continuous (i.e. no break week every three weeks) low-dose hormonal birth control.  I stopped getting my period, and I stopped having the intense misery that went along with it.  (Occasionally I get a bit of break-through bleeding; for me it's worth it.)  Obviously birth control can cause depression in some people, so mileage varies -- but for me it was the best.

    I’ve had good a good experience with Lexapro for medication resistant depression/anxiety. 

    Has your daughter been checked for endometriosis? Painful periods is the first sign of endo. I would make an appointment with dr Opaku-Ananie (sp) she is an endometriosis specialist and talk to her about the symptoms and possible laparascopy. There is also a great support group called Nancy's Nook on FB, they provide a lot of useful information in relation to endo. 

    I started Lexapro a couple months ago for anxiety and depression and can’t believe how much better I feel. I really resisted it and now I regret that. It is very clear to me now that I needed medical treatment. I’m in my 40’s so different age and life stage than your daughter - but I would say she should give it a try.  

    +1 on investing the birth control possibility if you haven't already. I've had friends for whom that worked. I took Lexapro for years for mild-ish depression, and it worked pretty well. I took it at night because one of the side effects was drowsiness. (Given that another side effect can be insomnia it sounds like experiences vary in that regard.) I've taken other anti-depressants and my experience of the side effects with Lexapro were pretty minimal, FWIW. Good luck!

    I was on lexapro in my 20s and loved it. First month it made me really nauseated but that went  away and my anxiety disappeared. It was a great time in my life as a result. When I got into a serious relationship I got off of it because it made it harder to orgasm but otherwise it was my perfect drug. Never had any luck with other anti depressants. One of these days I plan to get back on it! 

  • Antidepressants and teen development

    (3 replies)

    My 15 year old has been taking 10 mgs Prozac for about a year for anxiety and depression. It has helped her tremendously. She was having panic attacks a few times a week and now has them every few months. She often missed school due to anxiety and now she goes regularly and is doing well. She navigates through the world with much more joy and is so very much easier to be around. However, recently she mentioned to me that she has not had any crushes since she's been on medication. Before she had frequent crushes. Today I heard an episode of Fresh Air in which the speaker talked about SSRI medications being libido killers. I haven't directly asked my daughter whether her solo sexual response has changed but I'm concerned that her sexual feelings are dampened during the teen years when one should be developing a sense of one's sexual self. On the other hand this medication has truly helped her function and feel good in the world. Any thoughts on this from parents of teens on medications or people who were on medication in your teens? Thanks for your insights!

    My 20 year old is taking 200 mgs of Prozac for 3 types of anxiety and depression.  She has been taking this dosage for approximately 2 years and it has not affected her.  In fact, she has an additional medication for panic attacks that she has not taken in the past 3 months.  She has regular therapy and navigates through the world very well.  She is in her 2nd year at SFSU, has a 20+ hr job and a boyfriend along with spending time with other friends and family.  She is sexually active now.  She remained a virgin until recently by her own choice and it had nothing to do with her libido.  Open the lines of communication with your daughter.  The sooner you do it, the easier it will be when she is older to speak with you about these things.  

    I'm thinking that it may be a sign of good mental health that she isn't having frequent crushes. Although it is totally normal to have crushes as a teen, intense attractions to people you don't know all that well can also be tangled up with anxiety and insecurity.  The best romantic interests start as friendships - maybe that's the direction she's going.  Also, from personal experience with SSRI's, they do inhibit sexual response for the first few months, but it is temporary.

    My daughter began taking 10 mg of Prozac at about your daughter’s age. After a year I was advised to get a second opinion so I took her to another psychiatrist who prescribed her Wellbutrin. First 150mg and as her depression intensified Wellbutrin was increased to 300mg along with two other meds. It’s my understanding that Wellbutrin does not negatively impact libido. I heard the same program so I can relate to your concerns. Best wishes on your journey. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Teen won't take antidepressants anymore

August 2011

Our teenager was taking a low dose of an antidepressant and it seemed to be helping a lot with getting along with others and being much more pleasant to be around and over all just a huge improvement. Now she won't take it anymore and says it ''harms her creativity, etc.'' I think she read this kind of thing online, because she reads stuff and then talks as if she knows it to be true. Anyway, has anyone had any experience with this and how might we talk her into taking it (celexa) again. anon

How about sitting down with her and doing the research together? There are certainly sites listing both benefits and side effects of medications. Maybe there are some benefits that will appeal to her, as well as some side effects you want to be aware of, such as a higher risk of suicide:

It's also worth taking a look at a book by Irving Kirsch called The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. He has some interesting points, including: If you test antidepressant effectiveness using a control group with an ''active'' placebo (a placebo that produces a side effect, such as a dry mouth), clinical trials show that antidepressants and placebos are equally effective. But to get a drug approved for a particular use, the company needs to provide the FDA with 2 controlled studies showing its effectiveness. There can be a hundred studies that show the drugs are not effective, but these don't get ''counted'' as long as there are 2 that do show effectiveness. If you toss out enough studies, you can ''show'' anything.

Also many medications prescribed for kids (including celexa) are not FDA approved for kids. They have not been tested on kids and that use is off-label.

Take some time - it's worth being as informed as possible a careful mom

Resistant to the idea of meds, wanting input

May 2010

I have been very resistant to the idea of starting my 16 year old on antidepressants but am thinking he might benefit from them. Anyone who has experience with this issue (positive or negative), I'd love to get your input. Thanks

Both my teenagers (17 year old boy and 14 year old girl) are on antidepressants.Although they were each engaged in therapy for some time before trying medication, in each case the meds have improved their depression in a way that did not occur before trying medication.

My son suffered from a mild chronic depression for some years, affecting his self-esteem, although he has always done well in school and had a nice circle of friends. He says now that, before meds, he constantly worried about what others were thinking of him, which caused him to feel ill at ease and inhibited in social settings. Now he is relaxed and confident, and says he no longer ruminates about everything. The first medication tried worked well for him. His psychiatrist is Dr. Peter Freedman, his therapist Laurie Case, both in Berkeley, and I would recommend both of them.

My daughter has suffered from a more severe depression the past few years, triggered by taking Singulair for her asthma (now under investigation by the FDA for causing suicidal ideation and depression, particularly in children and teenagers) and bullying at school (probably her depression caused her to become a target).Her psychopharmacologist is Dr. Lisa Hardy in Danville; her therapist is JJ Kelly at the Berkeley Therapy Institute. She is now on her second anti-depressant, and has responded fairly well, but still gets depressed, anxious, and has suicidal thoughts at times and occasionally cuts herself. Socially, she now has many close friends and is adept at navigating tricky social situations with a maturity beyond her years.

It has been very difficult, to say the least, and I expect that she may be trying a new anti-depressant in the near future. Of course, we worry about side effects, and whether our children will continue to struggle with depression all their lives.

For both kids, medication has clearly been beneficial. I believe that they both suffer from an inherited chemical imbalance, shared by family members/ancestors on both sides of the family, and their father and I felt this ultimately needed to be corrected with medication. They both responded quite quickly, once a theraputic dose was given. Talk therapy has also been an important part of treatment for both.

Good luck. It's hard to see your beloved children struggle with this disease, I know. anon

Your daughters situation sounds very much like what we have been experiencing for the last 9 months. In July of '09 my daughter had what we thought was a depressive episode triggered by the drug Accutane. After months of psychotherapy and meds (she was going to one of the docs in Dr. Hardy's office)which were not working, I took her to another psychiatrist who diagnosed her with soft symptom bipolar, a very rare side effect of Accutane. My daughter is currently on 3 meds and she is doing really well and in the very near future her doc will take her off two of the drugs and she will only be on one, which is an antidepressant/mood stabilizer.

Anti-depressants for 14 year old son?

May 2008

Our son claims that he's depressed. He's a well adjusted kid, popular in his 8th grade class, decent grades, but has been struggling recently juggling his school work and all the usual teenage battles. My husband works all the time and I'm a stay at home mom. Recently, there's been some stress in the family, older daughter going away to college, a near-death in the extended family. My husband and I are constantly arguing and I admit, it's an unhealthy environment for our children. It seems to be especially taking a toll on our 14 year old son. I tried taking him to therapist but he refuses to go (encouraged by my husband's ridicule of therapy). His older sister recently told me that our 14 year old admitted to her that he felt depressed and was interested in getting Anti- depressants but didn't want to come to ''mom and dad''. How do I approach him about this? Maybe b/c my husband tends to not take mental health seriously and our son feels that he wouldn't be taken seriously if he came to us. I'm fine with him going on Anti-depressants for a year or 2 but my main concern is that if he is seriously depressed, couldn't he use the Anti-depressants to attempt suicide? Right now he's nowhere near that state but my fear would be that providing him with Anti-depressants could be loading him with a responsibility that he may not be ready for. How have other parents dealt with this? Also, if he refuses to go to therpay, can a doctor prescribe the Anti- depressants? Also, is it too large a responsbility for a 14 year old to take his Anti-depressants on his own (once daily) and be trusted to not abuse them? I appreciate any and all advice! worried mama

I wasn't sure whether to reply to the anti-depressant question or the one that followed re the bright child not doing well in school since I've dealt with both! Including the arguing at home which contributes to a kid's stress. My daughter, a very smart and responsible kid, had depression, dizziness and migraines in 8th grade and was home most of the year. It also became clear in middle school, as work became more intense, that she wasn't doing her homework at all. In brief, we had her tested and found ADD, which can be hard to find in girls who aren't ''hyper.'' She didn't want to go to a psychiatrist but we talked her into it to get meds, and then told her she had to go every few weeks to keep the meds in check. She started Wellbutrin and Topomax. She didn't like ADD meds. And is now at MacGregor High, the alternative school in Albany, where she is doing her work and more, and says she ''loves'' because it's more independent, positive, interesting, and small. She sees her old friends after school and made new ones at Mac High. Check out the alternative schools in whatever town you're in. My daughter opted to go off of Wellbutrin on her own, and generally is doing so much better. Removing the homework struggle has changed our lives. It has been totally consuming to work this out, but worth the effort. Keep Trying

I would suggest that your son go to therapy and try to work things out that way first. I think a good therapist will be able to diagnose his condition. He may be feeling upset and doesn't want to deal with the ''talk'' therapy and that's why he's asking for the meds. They are not to be taken easily. They are very powerful drugs. It's not like taking an aspirin to make the pain go away. There are side effects. If the issues you mention that are going on in your house, I would say they might be having an effect on him. Why don't you go with him for family therapy? If the father doesn't want to participate that's fine, you can still make progress. That may be an issue that your son needs to learn how to deal with and a good therapist might be able to help.

My daughter was suicidal and we started her on anti-depressants and it really helped her. She's been very responsibly taking them since she was 14. She is monitored by a psychiatrist. I don't think she would abuse them, but that's her.

It sounds like your son needs some help. Start with therapy, just tell him that he needs to try this first even if his dad is being a jerk about it. My daughter's father wasn't so on-board at first until it became apparent that she was really in trouble.

good luck anon

Dear Mother of 14-year old, it sounds like your family is going through a lot of stress. I, too, have a husband who works a lot and I am a stay at home mom... I would urge you to wait a bit with the anti-depressants. Summer is here. So your son will experience less stress. Give him and yourself a couple of months to adjust to the changes (daughter leaving for college, near death in family). I think things will calm down and your son will feel better. Perhaps you and him can go off on a vacation together??? Take a friend of his and enjoy your time away... Hope this helps. Barbara, SAM of 3

It sounds like your son is temporarily unhappy for good reasons: the hormones of adolescence, a stressful home life, and other life challenges. Seems rational to me. A doctor is unlikely to prescribe anti-depressants before the patient's life is adversely affected by clinical symptoms: academic failure, lost appetite, poor hygiene, increased social isolation, acting out, suicidal thoughts, etc. (FYI, every teen can find websites on methods of self- destruction using only common household implements and OTC drugs.)

In my personal experience, unlike the amphetamines or barbituates of several generations ago, the antidepressants in current use have little or no effect unless they happen to address someone's particular chemical imbalance. They thus are less susceptible to abuse, but it may take longer to find the right one. A small percentage of people, in particular teens, reportedly become suicidal on Prozac, usually in the first few weeks of taking it. But there are several classes of anti-depressants. They can be useful medicine.

I sympathize with your concern, and would encourage you to keep up a supportive emotional connection with your son. In particular, watch for signs that he is smoking or drinking to cope with depression (a very bad longterm strategy). A healthy diet and regular exercise can also make a huge positive difference. good luck!

I would say definitely talk to your son if he is saying he's depressed. I would ask him if he'd like to talk to someone (therapist, counselor). Sometimes just knowing that our parents are listening to us and supportive makes all the difference. He may not even need anti-depressants, and even if they are recommended you can always get a second opinion. Therapy for him and for members of the family, if their willing, can make a difference. First step is to communicate with your son and take him seriously. Mother of a depressed son

Depressed 15-year-old refuses therapy & meds

March 2008

We need advice on what to do with our 15 year old son, we are so spent. He does suffer from depression, probably anxiety and bipolar. he refuses to see a therapist or take any medication. He did take medication for a while and was very angry about it He was very drugged looking and obviously needed it to be adjusted or changed but won't go to appointments or the appointments were scheduled far apart(kaiser)and all in all the whole therapy/medication turned him against any help whatsoever. The therapist that I did like asked my son if he wanted to be there and of course my son said ''NO''. The therapists response was he didn't like to see anyone who did not want to be there. Seems reasonable but what are we suppose to do with our son. He is not threatening suicide or harm to anyone else but he is losing out on life and it is so painful to watch. He is not interested in school(failing) or friends only his computer. What have other parents done with their teens? How do we get through to him??? Any miracle worker therapists out there?
a heartbroken parent

p.s. we do not have the $$$ to send him off on a wilderness experience

Our son is the same age and going through the same thing. After seeing many therapists, psychiatrists, and even two neurologists, the person who helped us is Dr. Ron Cohen in Los Altos. I realize that's a long drive for you but maybe your son could be coaxed to see him just once? If not, I think YOU might go to see him. He helps me keep a slightly tighter grip on my sanity. The other thing we're doing is an IEP through the school so we can qualify for mental health services. Given our current whacked government (all $$ to Iraq and none to mental health agencies) it's tough to find help but if you are persistent you can talk to people who give good advice on what you can DO. I'm slowly realizing my kid won't be a normal high school student but we can adjust, get him through this, and hope that his brain works on a more even keel in a year or two. I understand how truly awful it is to worry about your son 24/7. It affects your health and your entire life. Ann

By way of background, we have 2 children who have struggled with similar issues from childhood through their teenage years.

First, my initial reaction on reading your post was that if there's a problem getting your son into individual therapy, try engaging him in family therapy first. A family therapist may have more influence than you do directly. Sending your son to a therapist you and your husband see alone isn't what I have in mind.

Second, therapy alone is unlikely to be enough; medication treatment is, in my view, essential. They are rarely a panacea, but they usually help significantly.

Meds compliance: You're absolutely right that the wrong meds will discourage compliance, and that frequent visits are important until an effective medication regime is identified. Waiting on Kaiser to schedule follow-ups is a recipe for failure, as you've learned.

Finally: your son is a minor and you are in charge. I know that being in charge doesn't make it easy to deal with him. But you can make him engage in treatment. That is a challenge, but can probably be overcome with persistent firmness. If it takes serious negative consequences, so be it. Do it while you still can. Once your son sees some benefit he will almost certainly become more cooperative, even though it is a pain in the butt. So are daily insulin injections.

I've heard good and bad things about the Kaiser system; from unrelated (non-psych) experiences I know that there are some very good doctors there, but that it can take aggressive advocacy and persistence to get what you want/need. If you can afford it, I would recommend paying for some outside consultation with a well-regarded psychiatrist so you at least have some foundation in dealing with the Kaiser system. But regardless of that, get your son treated and be pro-active.

Good luck. Dealing with these issues is like being caught in the mill of the gods. It wears a family down. But hang in there. Things can and will get better once your son is well-treated. A fellow parent...

I've read a few posts lately about teens with depression and being 'bipolar.' If you haven't already, please be very cautious about accepting a diagnosis of bipolar. It has been extremely over diagnosed the past few years. I know...our daughter was diagnosed incorrectly and ultimately, was on multiple medications that she did not need to be on. As a parent with a child who has indeed struggled with depression and extreme mood swings the past few years, I know how desperate one can become to have a psychiatrist find a diagnosis. I've been there.

After her psychiatrist labeled her ADD last spring after meeting with her for 15 minutes and handed us yet another script, we knew we had to run, not walk, and get another opinion. The professionals at Langley Porter evaluated our daughter and long story, short, she is a new person and we have hope. She went from 6 medications down to one (and will eventually be off that med too) and began a program called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT for short). It has been no less than a miracle. She has learned coping skills and is now looking forward to going off to college in a couple years.

Please, please, please question any psychiatrist who labels your child bipolar. Unfortunately, children who are depressed or have other mental/nervous issues can't get an MRI and have a clear diagnosis, so as parents, we must continue to question and not accept all diagnoses without a thorough evaluation. Been down that road

I also have a teen who suffers with severe depression. We did not give her a choice to do psychotherapy and take psychotropic medication. She has never wanted to take the medication but I have treated it like any other medical problem, I wouldn't give her a choice about antibiotics. Ditto with therapy, she initially was relieved we were sending her, then she became resistant (told her to talk to the therapist) and now she loves her therapist. Medication is a key component of her recovery but it can be tricky finding the right one for your child. Consistent aerobic exercise is also a known antidepressant if this is possible. Kaiser often can't provide the ongoing therapy these kids need. For boys my recommendations: Joe Saah, MFT The Men's Center Berkeley, John Sprinson, Ph.D. Oakland, and David Selniker, Ph.D. also in Oakland. Hang in there. Mary

Anxiety medication for 13 year old?

June 2006

We are thinking of agreeing to give our son medication for his anxiety. A behavioral pediatrician recommended it because his anxiety is effecting his peer relations and our home life quite a bit. Does any one have experience with the SSRIs or other anxiety meds? What are/were the side effects and what are the benefits? anxious parent

We too were concerned about trying an SSRI with our 13 year old son a few years ago for anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior, and I can well appreciate the difficulty of your decision given the severe warnings with adolescents. Our son was afraid of airplane travel and even trying new restaurants. Every night, he spent about 20 minutes compulsively tidying up his room before bed. It began to impact our family life. We tried patient reasoning. We tried bribery. All to no avail. Finally, our developmental pediatrician started him on a very low dose of fluoxetine (generic Prozac), and the change has been wonderful. I'm happy to report that his room is now an age appropriate mess at night. It's no longer a struggle to travel abroad, and my son tries all sorts of strange food here and abroad. We've noticed no adverse reactions, but our behavioral pediatrician sees our son every few months to keep an eye on him, and we try to do the same. So, our experience has been very positive, but we remain watchful. I'd recommend doing some research on the internet, and I wish you the best with this difficult decision. another concerned parent

I believe that we need to attack my daughter's depression from all angles, including dietary and nutritional aspects. We go to talk therapy, on and off together and seperatly. The family (art) therapy is very good. Have you tried therapy as a family? Has your son gone on his own? My daughter is taking an SSRI medication (Celexa-not sure if this is also an anti-anxiety med). It's been 1 year now and has really helped her depression. She has had no side effects. She had to work up to a dosage where she actually felt a difference, which took about two months. Other people tend to notice the difference sooner than that person taking the drugs. We have gone through a psychiatrist who specifically treats adolescents, not the pediatrician, who didn't feel comfortable prescribing the meds. I was given a short list of side effects by the Dr. He didn't want to scare me with the long list, but I got them through the pharmacist, anyway. It's good to know what to be aware of when starting on these really powerful meds. Remember there are no studies done on young people with developing brains with these drugs. If you are sure you want to try these, make sure your son knows what the side effects are also and to even keep a journal of how he's feeling so you can communicate about it. That's really important. Good luck and do your research.

This is a really weird site, but also has some interesting info if you can take what you need and leave the rest. It's postings by people on perscription medications. You don't have to join or say anything, just read. There are others, I couldn't remember the addresses, but there must be some tamer ones out there reluctant to go on the meds

Psychotropic medications (including stimulants, antidepressants, SSRIs, etc.) all have side-effects and they should be used only with a firm and accurate diagnosis. For example, some of these drugs can actually precipitate a psychosis and make the situation much worse. If you are considering medication, have an evaluation by a psychiatrist (M. D.), a specialist in the use of medications. A ''behavioral pediatrician'' is not a traditional specialty in my understanding. Robert

The one thing I didn't know that I should have known in medicating my very anxious child was that, if there is a history of bipolar disorder on either side of the family, you run the risk of activating it if you administer SSRIs for the anxiety. We did and we did. Zoloft worked great for three months and then mania set in, and we've been on a roller coaster since. Knowing what I know now, I don't know what I would do. He's now taking Xanax for the anxiety, because even on mood stabilizers, he can't tolerate SSRIs. Some kids with history of bipolar in the family can take SSRIs with or without mood stabilizers. Just another ''little'' worry to worry about. heather

I am responding as a parent who was an extremely anxious child, teenager, and young adult. It was not until my mid-twenties that, after an episode of severe, crippling anxiety & depression, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and tried an SSRI (Paxil). The change was, for me, nothing short of miraculous. I simply did not know that I could live without grinding worry and periods of intense anxiety. My experience with medications has not been perfect. There are troublesome side effects (namely weight gain and lack of libido). I still have breakthrough anxiety episodes where I will need to use benzodiazapenes for a couple of weeks. But I have tried to goo off the meds many, many times, only to have the grinding worry return, so I have accepted that I need to stay on an SSRI, likely for life. There are many troublesome issues related to young people and psychotropic medications. SSRIs seem to sometimes affect adolescents differently than adults. And it can be difficult to differentiate ''normal'' teenage turmoil from something that might be a disorder calling for treatment. I do know that seeing how medication has improved my life, I wish very much that my mom or my psychotherapist had suggested a trial of medication when I was younger. My anxiety led me to engage in some risky, self-destructive behaviors (early sexual activity, binge drinking, self-medicating with pot). And many of my memories of childhood are of carrying around fears and feeling that the world was a threatening place. But SSRIs didn't exist then, so talk therapy was about all I was given, but it simply wasn't enough. (I am assuming you will speak with your child about what she wants to do....) A Worrier

There is no way to tell which SSRI's will help a particular child, to my knowledge. What helps one child may not help another. One child may have side effects and another may not. Unfortunately you just have to try one or some and see. My 11 year old son has been on a generic brand of Prozac for a year for an anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism. It has helped him tremendously and he has had NO side effects. Another boy I know with the same issue was put on another SSRI and it helped him, where Prozac did not. What I do know is that Prozac is the longest used SSRI on children and SO FAR studies do not show any long term ill effects. I believe the others are too new to have any solid evidence from studies. Hope this is helpful. Good luck anon

When I was 15 I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder by a therapist and medicated for it. I think I took Zyprexa at that time. While we were concerned about my being so young to be on that type of drug (it's classified as an antipsychotic, sounds bad I know), the anxiety and depression were certainly worse. I'd ask yourself and your daughter how disruptive and unconfortable the anxiety problem is (I know it can be quite debilitating) and if medication would relieve it, go for it! If you think it can be managed through various therapies, maybe try that route first. As an adult now, I have my anxiety and depression problems under control and I'm glad my parents made the decision to medicate me. It was too unmanageable for me without it. Good luck to you and I wish you all the best Been there

We have had our son on Celexa for depression and Concerta and Stratera for his ADD for 4 or 5 years. He tolerates all these medications very well with no side effects, and his life is a lot easier (although there is much he still needs help with). A symptom of depression in kids can be anger or anxiety. However, SSRIs are NOT anti-anxiety agents (like ativan, klonopin or valium) which have the unfortunate problem of developing tolerance. I suggest a good MD to help you through these complicated issues. We really like Dr. Josephine Lindt in Albany at(510) 525-2670. she's a Developmental Pediatrician. DF

Antidepressants for Teens?

Related page: Antidepressants

Has anyone had experience with antidepressants being prescribed for teen agers? My daughter's therapist has brought this up as a possibility. I can see lots of potential problems with this. Perhaps also some benefits. But I have no knowledge or experience. I would welcome feedback from people who have had experience with this. Thanks.

Our family has just learned that our bright, active 15-year-old daughter is very depressed and talking of suicide. She is now receiving counseling and has been prescribed Prozac, but she doesn't want to take it. I'm looking for advice from other parents whose teens are on anti-depressants. Did it really help? Did it make her feel weird? Any strange side effects? How long before it started helping? Does your child have any advice for a teen who's been prescribed anti-depressants? Or do you have some advice for me?

My daughter became very depressed with suicidal ideations when she was 13. Since we have a great deal of familial depression in our family I took it very seriously. Long story short, she went to Lisa Hardy, MD, at Children's in Oakland about whom I can't speak highly enough. My daughter was put on Zoloft, which helped tremendously. After about 6-8 months she felt well enough to come off the Zoloft and has been doing well ever since - that was about a year ago. She had been to therapists but the reality was, she was pretty clear what her life issues were - and they were enough to make anyone depressed - and was dealing with them. She still is but now she's far more able to given that she has the psychic energy to do so.

my 15 year old son was very depressed last school year. he wasn't talking about suicide but he basically stopped doing any homework so he went from being an a student to an f student. he wouldn't go to therapy or take medication. he finally bottomed out (one of those moments when you both recognize that it's either therapy or something dangerous could happen) in november, 99. he went to therapy willingly but continued refusing medication. finally in may, 2000, with a bribe from me, he agreed to try medication. unfortunately, the first med we tried effexor didn't seem to help. we were moving in july and he was going to summer school and it was all more than he could handle. i don't need to tell you the whole story but what i do want to tell you is that he's now a freshman, he's on wellbutrin, also taking adderall (for adhd) and finished his first semester with a's and b's. he is SOOO much better. last year i'd find him lying on the couch motionless, unable to move because he couldn't deal with all the homework he had. that doesn't happen anymore. i'm sure he would agree that medication has helped him greatly. don't know if he'd be willing to talk to your daughter (maybe), but i'm happy to talk to you. feel free to email me and let me know if you'd like to talk on the phone or in person. best of luck to you,

In the Jan. 30 teen newsletter you asked about your depressed daughter not wanting to take prozac. My son, now 15, had these problems at 12 while in middle school. We started him in counseling and prozac was prescribed. He started taking it and it made a world of difference. It took about three weeks to actually take effect. At the end of those three weeks, he felt better, and we all felt better. He took prozac until this past summer, and decided he didn't need it any more. We consulted with his therapist and the psychiatrist who prescribed the prozac. All felt that if he was ready to get off, he could make that decision. He stopped taking it and has been fine. He took it for about 2 1/2 years. We did not notice, nor did he feel side effects. He stopped gradually, decreasing dosage until he stopped. There has been no withdrawal problems. He does continue with his therapist, and feels that he still needs that outlet.

I know your fear and feelings of helplessness to see your child depressed and talking of suicide. It was so hard to see my 12 year old in that place. If you want, I can ask him if he has any advice to give your daughter and get back to you. My advice to you is just keep giving her lots of love and support, and keep talking with her. Even if you don't think she is listening, she is hearing you deep inside, and it does make a difference.

If your daughter would be willing to take the Prozac for a month, she would be in a much better place to decide whether to continue. I'm a parent (different, of course) but, did not realize I was depressed until I began taking Prozac and felt better. No important side effects, no big deal, but a big difference.

My suggestion is to be as sympathetic as possible with your daughter- acknowledge her feeling unhappy. Explain that sometimes depression is a chemical imbalance or being depressed creates a chemical imbalance - encourage her to try the antidepressant for a few weeks. Ask her if she feels any negative side effects. Some antidepressants are more suitable for one person than another - check with your dr. if there are unwanted side effects or it's not working - it takes time to get the right medicine and dosage worked out. Hand the medication to her each day and watch her take it. Look up side effects on the web - especiialy chat or message boards - some side effects are just temporary. Anti depressants really do work! Ask your daughter's therapist what you and the rest of the family can say or do to help. Keep life at home as cozy and as regular as possible. Be as close to your daughter and spend as much time with her as she will allow - even if you have to change your schedule. Let her know she is not alone. I have just been dealing with a similar situation. Best of luck and hang in there!

Responding to the family with the daughter suffering from depression: Assuming you and she trust the diagnosis, take the medication. Our 16-year old son has been taking a similar drug for two months. He hasn't noticed any side affects, and for a while was wondering if it was having any effect. However, over the past month both he and his parents have noticed a definite improvement, and it's improved his ability to function socially. He's still having a great deal of difficulty concentrating and memorizing, as apparently it can take several months for the medication to affect learning areas. He manages his own medication in consultation with his doctor. Naturally he's pretty sensitive on the subject and had difficulty discussing it with us, let alone other people or agencies such as the school.

I'd advise you to take the diagnosis seriously, as depression can severely affect judgement and concentration, as well as inhibiting consideration of long-range plans or consequences. It's apparently fairly common in adolescents, especially in girls. If not treated it could get worse and she could wind up with significant problems. Treatment is usually accompanied by psychotherapy, though I assume that's how you got the original diagnosis. If you want more information a quick web search on 'Prozac', 'Zorloft' or 'Depression' will provide a wealth of information.

Just a question and response to the parents of the depressed daughter. Did your health care provider check whether she was taking any other drugs? There is an acne medication which is being linked to suicide proneness in teens. Apparently the manufacturer hasn't put that info on its inserts yet and there was a recent stink about it in the DC area . Secondly, have you considered using alternative therapies that might work with depression instead of drugs -- acupuncture, neurotherapy, massage therapy, or just plain old talk therapy, or talk therapy combined with some sort of physiological-energy enhancing therapy?

Hi, I do not have a teen who is depressed or has been prescribed prozac. Nor, do I have personal experience with depression or prozac. I do, however, have a sister (now 49 years old) who has a diagnosed mental illness (schizophrenia) and have received supportive and caring referrals from the Mental Health Association of Alameda County. You can reach them by calling 510/835-5010. They can give suggestions for you as a parent and for your teen. They also have a lending library with books and videos. I hope this is helpful.

Hello to the mother of the 15 year old. I have personal experience with anti-depressants and I hope I can be of some help, but I am not a health professional. The medications definately work, and do not in any way interfere with therapy by covering up emotions,a common misconception.There are many drugs on the market. Prozac is the oldest of a group of drugs known as selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors. They act on the seratonin receptors in the brain. Zoloft, Paxil and Luvox are also SSRI's. The claim is made that they act more quickly, have fewer side effects, and are safer than the older tricyclic antidepressants.They are safer, in that an overdose is not life threatening. They have different side effects, and in general they do act more quickly. However different depressed people have different brain chemistry, some will respond to SSRI's, some will respond to medications that act upon the norepinepherin receptors in the brain (the tricyclics). I am one of those, so I take a very old and unfashionable tricyclic antidepressant that no one has heard of but that works perfectly for me. Effexor,one of the newest drugs on the market,works on both chemical receptors.Doctors often don't like to explain the possible side effects lest they discourage the patient or cause the effect to appear by suggestion. They also don't like to point out to a seriously depressed person that an overdose of a tricyclic (a weeks supply, for example)can be fatal. So they generally go for the newer,safer drugs. The success rate in terms of alleviating depression is no better for the newer drugs. It all depends on the persons brain chemistry, and the only method for predicting what will work is trial and error. This requires time and patience. With all the drugs, it is important to start with a small dose and gradually move up to the therapeutic dose. It may take three weeks to arrive at the dose and another two to three weeks to get any improvement. If a drug is not making a dramatic improvement after three weeks at the target dose, switch to a different drug. In general, if you do not respond to Prozac, you may not respond well to other drugs in that class(Paxil etc) People change from Prozac to Paxil if it works but Prozac makes them too sleepy, or too hyped up, or too whatever. Is is not unheard of to go through five or six medications to find the one that works. Don't give up! When it works, it is a miracle. This may be more information than you asked for, but I was a depressed teenager in an era when medication was frowned upon (I am 52 now) and I feel that I suffered needlessly, so when I saw your note in the newsletter I got all fired up to write to you. The most important thing I can recommend is to be in contact with a Psychiatrist that knows medication. There are a lot of people out there prescribing antidepressants that know very little about them. Best of luck to you and your daughter. -- mother of a junior at Berkeley High