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Jeremy* did not display many of the warning signs typically associated with adolescent depression, such as: a drop in grades at school, decreased interest in hobbies and activities and difficulty with relationships. In fact, his parents described him as a witty and social 14-year-old who earned good grades and enjoyed playing the guitar.
Though Jeremy’s parents noticed he was unusually quiet and that his posture was increasingly slumped, they attributed the behavioral and physical changes to adolescent growing pains. They were floored to learn that he had attempted to take his own life.
“I was so confused and stunned that I didn’t know where to begin,” said Jeremy’s mother. “Although admitting Jeremy to a hospital seemed like an aggressive first step, I came to the conclusion that it was necessary.”
When Jeremy arrived at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital in May of 2007, he was admitted to the hospital’s adolescent program, which specializes in the treatment of adolescent depression. Those who evaluated him early on, including Tony Zielinski, RN, lead clinical nurse, described him as anxious, depressed and closed off. During this initial assessment, Jeremy revealed he had been intentionally harming himself and attempted suicide several times.
In addition to one-on-one therapy sessions, multiple family therapy sessions were held to address problems he was having at home. Following nine days of inpatient treatment, Jeremy’s mental state had improved and stabilized.
“He really trusted Dr. [Richard] Buccigross and the rest of his treatment team,” said Jeremy’s mother. “He was curious to learn all he could about what was happening to him.”
Following Jeremy’s first in-patient stay, he was admitted to the Adolescent Outpatient Program. He took part in daily group therapy sessions and was prescribed antidepressants to treat his recurring thoughts of suicide.
Though Jeremy was initially admitted for extreme depression, he was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder; characterized by periodic extreme highs and lows accompanied by ongoing depression. Though Jeremy’s parents weren’t necessarily surprised to learn of the diagnosis, hearing it evoked mixed emotions.
“A diagnosis of bipolar disorder can mean many things,” said Jeremy’s mother. “It can mean turmoil or tragedy, but it can also mean learning to cope with the condition through therapy and medicine and living a full life.”
After participating in Sharp Mesa Vista’s inpatient and outpatient programs and starting a new medication during his last admission, Jeremy’s mother noticed a remarkable change in his mental state.
“I saw that his eyes looked brighter and there was less tension in his face,” Jeremy’s mother recalled. “Each day he improved a little more. It was really quite dramatic; like watching a weed being pulled out of the ground and seeing the roots extracted until finally, it was gone.”
Three years later, Jeremy is a straight-A student with a healthy social life and passion for music. Now in his senior year, he is applying to colleges with an optimistic outlook on life.
*The patient’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.
To learn more about Sharp's mental health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego psychiatrist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about mental health, visit Mental Health Disorders in Adult Health or read the Mental Health News archive.