Painting A Clear Picture Of Depression For Your Teen: Situational vs. Clinical Depression

Painting A Clear Picture Of Depression For Your Teen: Situational vs. Clinical Depression

One of the very best things about the rising generation is the familiarity with mental illness. In previous generations the stigma attached to mental illness was often so serious that the topic was completely avoided or undermined. Although there may still be stigma, teens are largely more aware of and sensitive to mental illness than generations before. Problems still exist, however, with teens accurately understanding mental illness and what it may look, feel, and sound like.

Painting a Clear Picture of Depression

As parents it is vital that we take the time to communicate with our teens about mental illness to be sure they have accurate perceptions of depression despite what they see on TV or hear from their friends. Often teens, and adults as well, will assume that depression means being suicidal, isolating oneself from others, and crying all the time. They may think it’s permanent, or they may think it will be gone when a particular situation is resolved. Helping them understand different facets and factors of depression can better arm them to battle mental illness in their lives and support those who have it.

Situational Depression

Teens often experience situational depression (about 30% of them will at some point), which results from a traumatic event or change. The depression is caused by shock and adjustment to something that is unpleasant to them. Common triggers for teens include death of loved ones, moving, divorce, illness, injury, or accidents. This form of depression is temporary, though it is still serious if it goes unchallenged. Time and talking are generally the best help.

Clinical Depression

The more serious form of depression will not necessarily be resolved over time. It includes symptoms that interfere with daily life such as insomnia, fatigue, irritability, lack of energy, loss of interest, unexplained fear or guilt, thoughts of death or suicide, and others. Clinical depression often has conflicting symptoms (inability to sleep paired with tiredness), and sometimes people appear happy though they are battling depression. Clinical depression is best treated with therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and medication.

3 Ways to Help

  1. Talk. Keeping the lines of communication open is key, even if it feels awkward or forced. Talk about depression and mental illness with your teen to help them understand it in real life. Find out what they think about depression in movies or books versus what they see in the world around them. Their perspective may be inaccurate and dangerous, or they may know more than you think.
  2. Educate Yourself & Others. There are so many excellent resources out there to help you, your teen, and others better understand what depression is like, including educational courses, videos, and more.
  3. Compassion. Show compassion for your teen and model your compassion for others who may struggle with mental illness. Sometimes all it takes is knowing people care.

The most critical step to painting a clear picture of depression for your teen is to simply be aware. Watch for signs, educate yourself as a parent, and be open to communication with your teen at any point. Their future mental health and relationships with others may be positively impacted by your effort as a parent.

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