Certain populations face specific mental health challenges because of their gender, age, or circumstances. When trying to prevent, manage, or treat certain mental health problems, it is important to consider the special mental health concerns of various groups.
Childhood is supposed to be about snips, snails, and puppy dog tails, yet it's not always such a carefree time of life. About five percent of children ages 9 to 17 have major depression, and many of these children continue to struggle with depression as adults. Between 20 an 40 percent of those who struggle with major depression develop bipolar disorder within five years of reaching adulthood. Among teens ages 15 to 17, young women have depression at twice the rate of young men.
Women are more likely than men to become depressed. About 12 percent of women and about 7 percent of men have symptoms of depression. Researchers aren't sure how to explain the difference or whether there really is one, because men are thought to underreport depressive symptoms.
Pregnant Women and New Mothers
Pregnant women who become depressed are at risk of giving birth prematurely to infants with a low birth weight. These women are also more likely to smoke and abuse alcohol or other drugs. Use of antidepressant medications by pregnant women carries risks, too, and these drawbacks must be weighed against the benefits of using them.
Giving birth doesn't always resolve depressive symptoms. Postpartum depression (partum is a Latin word that means to bear or bring forth) is characterized by gloominess, headaches, insomnia, and ill humor. If this mood persists longer than 2 weeks or if it is especially severe, medical consultation is warranted.
Men's perceptions about what is or is not “manly” may keep them from seeking help for depression or other mental health problems. Men often express concern that an insurer may disclose their mental health treatment to their current or a future employer. They may feel ashamed of having a "weakness," may deny a problem exists, or simply may not recognize their symptoms as being troublesome. Sometimes men erroneously conclude that no one can help them. Of course, anyone—male or female—who takes pride in being self-reliant might have the same reluctance to seek treatment.
Some people mistakenly believe that depression goes hand-in-hand with aging. Even doctors may fail to recognize depression in an older patient or may have a hard time sorting out whether a patient is depressed or is suffering from the symptoms of an illness or the side effects of a medication. Of course, an older adult may be grieving for a lost friend or spouse and feel downcast for a time, but this distress should be temporary. If the person remains despondent or inconsolable for more than a few weeks, intervention is called for.