The start of a new school year is fast approaching, and a Mayo Clinic pediatrician is cautioning parents of teens to watch for the signs of depression. Dr. Janna Gewirtz O’Brien said research shows that ongoing moodiness often is far more serious.

“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,” Dr. Gewirtz O’Brien said.

She said new guidelines suggest screening all teens for depression starting at age 12.

“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 explained. “We can do better.”

And if a child expresses that they are feeling depressed, Gewirtz O’Brien said that shouldn’t be taken lightly and, “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,”

Signs include irritability, a depressed mood, trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping, a sudden severe weight gain or loss, a sudden drop in grades in school, and sudden loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.