Are you worried that your teen may be dealing with symptoms of depression? Here are 5 ways you can help!
- Know the signs and symptoms of depression. I have parents ask me all the time, “is my child really dealing with depression, or is this just teenage stuff?” I understand how confusing this may be for parents. Your teenager is changing physically, socially and emotionally. So how do you know if it is more than just teenage hormones? Here is a list of common symptoms of teen depression.
- Change in behavior. The easiest way to recognize that something may be going on with your teen is when there is a significant change in behavior. This can be a change in any type of arena, such as, a sudden disinterest in school, friends, or extra curricular activities, a sudden change in sleeping or eating habits or a change in overall behavior and attitude.
- Feeling down. This can exhibit as hopelessness, sadness, tearfulness or frequent crying.
- Anger outburst Oftentimes, depression can also present as irritability, outbursts or hostility.
- Communicate & Listen. As a parent, it can become natural to want to fix whatever problem your child is dealing with. Unfortunately, with depression, or any mental illness, it isn’t that easy. There is not magic wand that can immediately change how your child feels or thinks, and that can be painful. So what can you do to help? You can listen in a nonjudgmental and supportive way. Try to empathize with your child’s experience. You may know what our child does everyday; go to school, practice, home, we eat dinner, etc., but you can’t ever fully understand the experience of their world unless you ask. Here are some ideas for starting the conversation:
- “I notice that you have seemed down lately, can you tell me about how you are doing?”
- “I see that you have been upset lately, and I want you to know I am here for you when you are ready to talk”
- “I want to help you feel better, can we talk about how I might could do that?”
- Support Connection. Brene Brown defines connection as, “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and whey they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Depressed teens tend to withdraw from their peers and family and begin to isolate themselves. Support your child by encouraging connection with family and with their friends.
- Spend time together. One easy way to do this is family dinners, which can encourage conversation.
- Encourage your teen to spend time with friends outside of school.
- Help your teen connect and get involved in the community (e.g. a church youth group, volunteering)
- Address Physical Health. As I mentioned, changes in sleeping and eating can be a sign of depression. Teens often give excuses for not eating such as, “I don’t wake up early enough to eat breakfast,” “I don’t like the cafeteria food,” or “I just don’t like eating around other people.” These are often easy statements to believe, but it is important to realize that there might be more going on. One of the things I am constantly telling teens is that if your body can’t function, then your mind isn’t going to be able to function either. When we aren’t eating and sleeping regularly, symptoms of depression can be exacerbated. Here are some ideas to help support your child’s physical health:
- Provide balanced meals and education about the importance of eating. Help your teen wake up early enough to eat breakfast before going to school.
- Encourage a bed time and a night time routine. Limit time spent on devices before bed.
- Encourage physical activity. Physical activity can naturally lift your mood!
- Ask for help. If you suspect that your child is depressed or suicidal, please reach out to a mental health professional. This can often be the hardest part. You know your child best, and if you are concerned about depression it is best to reach out for help. Concerned about where to start? Try these options first:
- Check in with your school counselor. They are often aware of the best resources available in your area for teens. They can also give insight into how your child is doing at school and may even be able to provide additional strategies to use.
- Make an appointment with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician will also be able to give you referrals for resources in your area.
- Speak with a Licensed Counselor who specializes in teens. Counseling can be a great option for a teen struggling with depression. To find a list of counselors in your area, try PsychologyToday.Com
If you or your child need immediate help:
- Call 911 or visit your local ER
- call your local crisis response unit
- call the national suicide hotline 1-800-273-TALK
I hope this post was helpful. Feel free to email me if you have any additional questions.
***Blog disclaimer: This blog is for informational and educational purposes only. No therapist-client relationship arises. The information provided and any comments or opinions expressed are intended for general discussion and educational purposes only. They should not be relied upon for decision-making in any specific case. There is no substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional who could best evaluate and advise based on a careful evaluation. It is understood that no guarantee or warranty arises from the information provided or discussed on this blog.