What Parents Can Do
Teens and Depression
- Being a teen is not always easy. Adolescence is a time of physical, emotional, intellectual and social changes that build the bridge between childhood and adulthood. With change comes stress and anxiety. Therefore, teens may have mood swings daily, one day they are up and the next day they are down.
- However, when a teen feels down for more than two weeks, it may be a sign of a more serious problem. It can be hard to tell the difference between normal mood swings and clinical depression. The following information may alert you to the signs of teenage depression.
- Teenage girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression.
- Serious depression is not something that a person can just “snap out of.”
- Use of alcohol or other drugs only makes depression worse.
- For youth who are questioning their sexual identity (homosexuality, bisexuality), feelings of loneliness and rejection lead to a greater risk of depression and suicide.
- Untreated depression can lead to suicide.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people 15 to 24 years of age.
- About one out of four high school students in America have seriously thought about killing themselves in the past year.
Tips for Parents
What causes depression?
- Depression sometimes runs in families.
- Depression is often triggered by a loss such as the death of a friend or family member, parents’ divorce, a move to a new community, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, failing a test or being cut from a team.
- Circumstances such as social isolation, alcoholism in the family, poverty, family violence or ongoing conflict, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse may contribute to or cause depression.
How can you tell if your teen is depressed?
- The following signs and symptoms may suggest your teen is depressed, particularly if they are notable changes from his or her normal behavior and last for more than two weeks.
- Major change in sleeping or eating patterns (sleeps or eats too much or too little)
- Frequent absences from school or poor school performance
- Unusual lack of interest in activities, friendships or hobbies
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Running away from home
- Abusing alcohol or other drugs
- Neglecting personal appearance
- Frequently complaining of a stomachache or headache
- Thinking or talking about death, suicide or suicide attempts
- Persistent lack of energy, fatigue
- Feelings of guilt, pessimism, helplessness or hopelessness
- Persistent sadness or irritability
- Frequent crying
- Persistent boredom or restlessness
- Loss of self-esteem
What should you do if you suspect your teen is depressed?
- Seek professional help right away. You are not expected to make a diagnosis. Only a thorough evaluation by a health professional can diagnose depression and rule out other problems. Your family doctor can often do this evaluation. Your family doctor or a school counselor may also recommend a mental health professional who works with teens.