Depressed teens are often going through a significant amount of emotional and even physical pain, but often don’t have any idea what to do to feel better. As a parent, you’re usually in the best position to get initial help and offer support to a teen who is going through depression. Identifying depression in your teenager and supporting them through it can be difficult for parents, particularly if you’re unsure how to react to them or have never been through anything similar, so you find it difficult to relate.
Depression in teens can often be very serious; it’s a mistake to wait and hope that it will get better on its own because more often than not, it doesn’t. Untreated depression can also quickly lead to other problems including substance abuse, difficulty overcoming illnesses, and behavioral issues. We’ve put together some helpful tips on what to do if you suspect your teenager may be depressed.
#1. Signs to Watch Out for:
Identifying depression in teens can be difficult, particularly as it can manifest itself in many ways. Plus, many parents struggle to determine whether their teen is simply acting out or withdrawing themselves due to hormones, or whether it’s down to a more serious issue. The key here is to keep open lines of communication with your teen and encourage them to tell you how they are feeling. Cyber bullying is quickly becoming a main reason for why suicide has become an epidemic amongst younger people. Make sure that your teen knows they can talk to you, and look out for signs such as withdrawing themselves more often, losing interest in hobbies that they once enjoyed, feelings of hopelessness or perceiving themselves as a burden, and difficulty caring for themselves or doing everyday tasks.
So, when is the right time to seek help? If you’ve noticed significant changes in your teen’s mood or behavior that have lasted more than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to seek professional help to try and diagnose the main reason behind the change.
#2. Which Treatments are Available?
There are several treatments available for teens who are going through depression. Usually, teen depression is treatable with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Your doctor or mental health professional will be able to best evaluate your teen and come up with a plan that is likely to work depending on your teen’s personal needs and circumstances.
Whether or not your teen is offered medication to help combat their depression, encouraging them to talk to somebody about their issues will help. Oftentimes, teenagers can find it difficult to talk about their problems to people that they are close with but will be more likely to open up to a non-judgmental stranger. Therapy can be an outlet for your teen to voice their concerns and thoughts without any worry of their privacy and confidentiality being breached. This makes it easier for them to discuss issues that they may not be prepared to talk to with a parent or close relative.
#3. Educate Yourself:
If your teen is diagnosed with depression, the best thing for you to do is to educate yourself about depression so that you can get a better understanding of what they are going through. Make yourself available to your teen and ensure that they know they can talk to you about anything that might be bothering them. Understand that by talking to you, your teenager may not expect or even want you to provide a solution to their problems; sometimes the best thing that you can do is simply give them a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear whilst they try to figure it out for themselves. Support your teen’s daily routines and gently encourage them to develop healthy habits such as taking their medication, eating healthily, and getting plenty of exercise. Overall, make sure that your home is a comforting place where your teen feels safe and secure.
#4. Reassure Your Teen:
Often, what your teen will really need the most from you is plenty of reassurance. The chemical imbalance in the brain that results in depression can often skew the patient’s thoughts, opinions and beliefs about themselves and others around them in a negative way. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see depression patients who feel that they are hopeless and worthless, convinced that they are a burden to others, and that everybody else will be better off without them. Make sure that your teen is consistently reminded and reassured that they are not a burden and that being depressed is nothing to be ashamed of.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst teenagers in the U.S. today. Understanding the signs, knowing how to get help for your teen and offering your support is important for helping your child to overcome mental health challenges.