Since the devastating news of Robin Williams' suicide, we are learning more about his long battle with depression, as well as substance abuse. Sometimes mental health issues and substance abuse go hand in hand.
Williams had a very private side but was open about some of his problems. Unfortunately, it seems like the depth of his pain may have been one of his secrets. He was quite young when his mental health issues began, as are many others who suffer from this often chronic, and sometimes deadly, disease.
Depression can affect anyone, at any age. Even young children can be affected and it can become quite serious by their teen years.
We read about middle school children driven to suicide from abuse at home or bullying by their peers. Teachers are on the lookout for signs but they are not always able to identify this in students, even in those they know well.
Researcher Camilo Ruggero, PhD, of the University of North Texas presented a study he conducted to the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention recently. His study looked at the effect of physical fitness on the mental health of boys and girls as they prepared for seventh grade.
Nearly 450 children were studied from a region in North Texas. Of this group, 55 percent were girls and 45 percent were boys. The students were 89 percent white and 9 percent African-American, with 27 percent also identifying themselves as Hispanic.
For physical fitness testing, the children ran short sprints, had their body mass index monitored, were weighed, and answered questionnaires about their levels of physical fitness as well as questions about depression.
Ruggero found that for girls especially, those who were fit in sixth grade showed fewer signs of depression by seventh grade if they had good physical fitness. Boys fared the same on a slightly lower scale.
A troubling statistic was found, however. It was seen that 28 percent of the girls in sixth grade and 29 percent in seventh grade had increased signs of depression. The researchers found that the most powerful predictor of depression in seventh grade was having had symptoms of depression in sixth grade.