Improving mental health services for Minnesotans has been one focus of the current legislative session, particularly in the state’s student population, and research shows that ongoing moodiness in teenagers often is far more serious.

Mayo Clinic pediatrician Dr. Janna Gewirtz O’Brien said teen depression is much more common than most people realize and, “This is something that affects teenagers of all walks of life, of all backgrounds, and actually of ages from as young as 12 – sometimes even younger – and up to the young adult years.”

She said new guidelines suggest screening all teens for depression starting at age 12, because currently, “About half of kids are not identified with depression when they have it in the primary care setting, so we need to make sure that we’re catching more of those.”

Dr. Gewirtz O’Brien said parents also should look for five signs that their teen is depressed, including excessive irritability or generally depressed mood, trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping, sudden severe weight gain or weight loss, a sudden drop in grades in school, and sudden loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.

“So if somebody reaches out to you, an adolescent reaches out and said: ‘I’m worried. I’m depressed. Or I’m thinking about harming myself,’ that is something to be taken very seriously,” Dr. Gewirtz O’Brien said.