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Dear Dr. Saltzman,

if you read this, i thank you for your consideration.

(i am 14 years old)

lately i have been having a lot of the symptoms of depression. but i also think that there is a possibility that its just due to a cause of events this past year that may go away in time. i have begun homeschooling this year so my social life is lacking of when i went to school. i have been very bored most or al of the time for probably the past 2 months. i have lost my appetite somewhat. my sleeping pattern has changed. i have crying spells. i am fearful of life. afraid that i wont be successful at anything i do.

i also experienced a very mild case of "depression" during the summer of 2004. wanting to be alone most of the time and things like that. but now a good portion of sadness goes away whenever i have a good time with some friends and whenever i am alone for even a short period of time i get bored and want to do something again. rarely i will have thoughts of suicide because i always know that maybe there is a great chance that my adult life will be a lot different. maybe i am exaggerating or maybe i am right about this. thank you if you read this and i hope to get your reply soon.


You write well for 14, and I appreciate your good manners as well.

I am wondering why you are being home schooled. Generally, in my opinion, this is not a good idea. School is about much more than learning ABCs. Being with others, and learning about the human equation seems to me as important as, if not more important than, learning about mathematical equations.

Often parents decide to home school their children in order to be able to indoctrinate them with some kind of religious beliefs, which indoctrination, in their view, would not be possible if the child were exposed to a wider range of information and varying points of view. I hope this is not your situation. But if it is, I encourage you to fight back. Faith in life is one thing; faith in fairy tales is quite another. I have addressed that in detail here.

That said, your symptoms suggest some kind of mood disorder, possibly depression. Without a personal interview, I cannot be certain of this, but I am concerned enough to suggest that you visit a competent psychologist as soon as possible to obtain a professional assessment of your mental health.

While it is true that your lack of contact with friends may be contributing to your boredom and sadness, understanding the "reasons" for depression is not as important as understanding that depression is an actual disease state marked by hormonal and other chemical changes in the brain and throughout the body. As I have written on my homepage, if the organism is allowed to remain in a depressed state over time, serious physical harm, including harm to the brain, may occur. This is why addressing your situation is, in my professional opinion, a matter of some urgency.

Further, while your suicidal thoughts and fantasies may not seem strong enough at this time to be a real threat to your safety, they also should be discussed with and addressed as soon as possible by a trained professional. Fantasies of suicide often change quickly from mere daydreams to actual plans, and the suicidal person may not even be aware that this change is taking place. This is particularly true, in my experience, of people in your age group.

I hope you will take my advice on this. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to write again.

Be well.

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