Teen depression: A parent’s guide

Despite the fact that depression is extremely treatable, the majority of depressed teenagers (and their parents) never seek help.

Teen depression: A parent's guide
 Support and healthy lifestyle changes can make a world of difference for depressed teens, but sometimes it’s not always enough.

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between normal teen behaviours and depression. Here’s how you can identify the signs and symptoms of depression and help your teen through this difficult time.

Recognising teen depression

The teenage years can be difficult, and depression affects teenagers more often than many think. One in every five adolescents from all walks of life may experience depression at some point throughout their adolescence.

Possible signs of teen depression

Depression in adolescents can appear differently than depression in adults. Teenagers are more likely than adults to exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Angry or irritable mood
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Engaging in risky conduct
  • Aches and pains
  • Exceptional sensitivity to criticism
  • Withdrawing from certain people
  • Lethargy
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Lack of appetite

Is it really depression?

If you’re not sure whether your teen is depressed or simply “being a teenager,” examine how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different your adolescent is acting from their typical self. Hormones and stress can explain the odd attack of adolescent angst, but not persistent and unremitting sadness, lethargy, or irritability.

Teen depression causes

Genes, for example, can boost a teen’s risk of getting depression. However, environmental and societal factors also have a role. Your teen’s depression symptoms may be triggered or exacerbated by the following factors:

  • Bullying
  • Other mental and physical health issues
  • Stressful events in the past and present
  • Substance misuse
  • Family troubles
  • Difficulties at school

Nine ways parents can help their depressed teen

When left untreated, depression may be highly destructive, so don’t wait and hope those troubling symptoms will go away. If you feel your child is depressed, express your concerns in a supportive and nonjudgmental manner.

  1. Start a conversation by telling your teen about the specific depression symptoms you’ve noticed and why they concern you. Then, ask your child to share their experience – and be ready and eager to actually listen. Avoid asking too many questions, but make it apparent that you’re ready and eager to provide whatever assistance they require.
  2. Set aside time each day to talk (when you are completely focused on your teen, with no distractions or attempts to multitask). The simple act of connecting face to face can have a significant impact on your teen’s depression. Remember that discussing depression or your teen’s feelings will not make the problem worse; however, your support can make all the difference in their recovery.
  3. Make every effort to keep your teen linked to others. Encourage them to go out with their pals or invite their friends around. Participate in events that involve other families and allow your child to meet and bond with other children.
  4. Try to limit their use of social media. Remind your teen that social media is not a good replacement for face-to-face relationships. Encourage them to turn off their phone – or at the very least disable notifications – when they are socialising in person, doing homework, or getting ready for bed.
  5. Suggest activities that capitalise on your teen’s interests and talents, such as sports, after-school organisations, or an art, dance, or music class. While your child may first lack desire and interest, as they reintegrate into society, they should begin to feel better and rediscover their excitement.
  6. Get your teen active! Exercise is critical for mental health, so do whatever it takes to get your teen moving. Teens should obtain at least an hour of physical activity per day.
  7. Serve healthful, well-balanced meals. Ensure that your teen is getting the nourishment they require for optimal brain health and mood support, such as healthy fats, quality protein, and fresh veggies. Eating a lot of sugary, starchy meals, which many depressed teens use as a quick “pick me up,” will only have a negative effect on their mood and energy.
  8. Encourage adequate rest. Teens require more sleep than adults in order to operate properly – up to 9-10 hours per night. Check to see whether your teen is staying up late at the price of much-needed, mood-boosting sleep.
  9. Know when to seek expert assistance. Support and healthy lifestyle adjustments can make a huge difference in the lives of depressed teenagers, but they aren’t always enough. If your depression is severe, don’t be afraid to seek professional help from a mental health expert who has extensive training and a strong background in treating teenagers.