Are you worried your teen might be depressed? Learn how to spot the signs – and what to do about it…
It can be difficult to work out whether our teens are experiencing ‘normal’ mood swings and the usual puberty-related woes or if they’re dealing with something more serious. Sadly, depression or similar mental health problems affect 1 in 6 young people aged 16-24*. If you’re concerned that your child could be depressed, there are signs you can look out for to get them the help and support they need.
Signs Of Depression
Depression is not simply sadness or moodiness. A person with depression often feels incredibly overwhelmed by all different kinds of emotions, from sadness and helplessness to angry and irritable. Look out for these signs:
- Changes to their eating or sleeping patterns.
- Very low moods.
- Outbursts of anger or severe irritability.
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks or a lack of interest or enthusiasm for activities they previously enjoyed.
- A negative change to your teen’s schoolwork. Late homework, poor grades and a lack of enthusiasm towards schooling can be a sign, especially if your teen was previously a good student.
- Headaches or unexplained aches.
- A loss of interest in their own appearance. Your teen may have stopped showering as often or appears to have lost interest in doing their hair/make-up.
- Agitated behaviours such as fidgeting or tapping.
- Loss of interest in their friendships or social activities. Many people with depression tend to withdraw from friends and family.
- Lack of motivation.
- Reduced energy or fatigue.
- Talk of feeling sad, hopeless or lonely. Your teen may also be prone to unexpected tears or outbursts of emotion.
- Talk of hating themselves or evidence of self-harm.
- Suicidal thoughts or talk of not wanting to be here.
It’s important to realise that this is not an exhaustive list, but it does cover the most common signs of depression. Your teen may be exhibiting just a few of these signs or a lot of them. They are good indicators that there may be a more serious issue than teen angst at play. It can give you a better picture of where your teen’s mind is at and how you can help them. Read our Depression: Why It Happens And Other Questions for more advice.
Talking To Your Teen
The best way to help your teen is to talk to them, ask them how they’re feeling and listen to what they have to say. Once you know what they’re feeling, you can make plans together to get the right kind of help.
Open the conversation
Begin by explaining to your teen that you’ve noticed some worrying behaviour and that you have concerns for their wellbeing. Be calm, supportive and make it very clear that you only want to help, you’re not there to judge or criticise.
Be prepared to listen
Try to resist the urge to interrupt or derail their train of thought. Let them spill out everything they want to get off their chest, no matter how haphazard. You’ll have plenty of time to evaluate everything later. Now is the time to just be there for them, unconditionally.
Try and try again
Some teens may bottle up and refuse to talk. Keep trying and be gentle but firm in your approach. Try to reiterate that you’re coming from a supportive position and that you only want to help. You could also encourage them to speak to someone else if they continue to refuse to talk to you. If this is the case, try not to take it personally – your teen may be worried that what they say will upset you and doesn’t want to hurt you.
Acknowledge their pain
Something that seems very minor to you might not be to your teen so try not to brush off anything they might say. Your well-meant attempts to smooth over issues could be taken as you not taking them seriously. Instead, explain that you’ll do what you can to help. Remember, your teen doesn’t expect you to know everything, but they do want you to help them find out how to get better.
Be honest with your teen and admit that you don’t have all the answers but that you will do everything you can to help them. No parent comes equipped with the tools to solve every problem life throws at our child so don’t feel guilty or helpless if you’re not sure what to do to help your depressed teen. You are not alone.
Talk to your teen about what they want. Be a team and make a plan together to reach out for help. A good place to start is to talk to your GP. They will be able to make an assessment of your teen or can refer you to a specialist. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for help – mental health problems are extremely common and there is a wealth of medical expertise and support out there to help your teen through this journey.
Support For You
Supporting a loved one with depression can be difficult, draining and stressful. It can feel very isolating at times. Lean on your family and friends for support, whenever you can. It’s just as important to take care of your own mental health as it is your teen’s. There are also various support groups available if you need to reach out for extra help. Your GP can put you in touch with local groups or point you in the direction of helplines and additional support services.
For more help: