Parents Helping Teens Manage Depression

helping teens manage depression

When you are a teenager you are living in a world of emotion. Hormones, a lack of perspective on the seriousness of certain situations, and uncertainty of the future coalesce to create a stew of simmering tensions. Because of this, many adults mistake certain signs as the usual ups and downs of a changing body. In fact, your teen could be suffering from Major Depression, a serious psychological disorder with some very grave consequences.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), Major Depression is categorized as a sustained feeling of despair, along with four or more other depressive symptoms. This depression can be caused by a number of factors, including trauma and environmental problems.

Not only will as many as 20% of teens suffer a major depressive episode before reaching adulthood, but they are 12 times more likely to commit suicide as a result. In 2014, a survey found that those between the ages of 15 and 24 had a suicide rate of 11.6%. This does not account for attempted suicides, or self harm related injuries.

Signs That Your Teen May Be Depressed

There are a number of common signs that your teen may be depressed. Some of these are the symptoms you would expect, and are often seen in adults. Others are more unexpected, and are usually found in teenagers rather than older sufferers of depression.

Signs to look out for include:

  • A general lack of emotion, or a dullness; apathy
  • Signs of despair, such as fits of crying
  • Loss of interest in things that used to excite them, such as hobbies or activities
  • General withdraw from you and other loved ones
  • Spending less time time social situations than usual, or suddenly hanging out with a new group of friends
  • Irritability or bursts of anger, or a sudden quickness to frustrate
  • An inability to take criticism, even if that criticism is only perceived
  • Loss of appetite or interest in food
  • Decrease in concentration, with a possible drop in grades as a result
  • A change in sleep patterns, resulting in either too much or too little
  • An increase in escapism tactics, such as spending so much time playing video games/watching TV/playing on phones that other aspects of their life suffer

If your teen is suffering from multiple symptoms from this list, lasting more than a couple of weeks, there is a chance they are suffering from a Major Depressive episode.

Broaching The Topic of Depression With Your Teen

Teenage depression is a serious problem, as the statistics above prove. It is crucial that you address the issue as early as possible, so you can give them the help they need. But when your teen is avoidant, prone to outbursts, or just in a vulnerable state, how do you best broach the topic?

The first step is to show them that you are not accusing them of anything. Depressed teenagers are suffering, in part, with a severe lack of self image, and a sensitivity to perceived criticism. They may take what you say as a sign that you are disappointed in them, or that they are somehow “wrong”. So coming to them from a place of worry, and making it clear that how they feel is valid and normal, is your best bet.

Let them know that you are not judging them. They should feel free to tell you anything they are thinking or feeling, however alarming. Show them that you are there to help, and to get them the help they need. Not because they have to be fixed, but because everyone struggles sometimes. You love them, and you want them to be happy and healthy.

Once you have an idea of the severity of the problem, you can start making a plan (with their help) to move forward. This might be a matter of finding a therapist to talk to, addressing a specific problem that is causing the depression, or seeking medical intervention.

Getting Help as a Parent

For most parents, the question isn’t that they need to help their teen, it is where to begin. There is no clear cut way forward, and they feel overwhelmed by the task. Not to mention hurt and frightened, seeing their child suffering with so much despair. Self help books and blog posts can only take you so far. But the prospect of hospital or inpatient intervention is an extreme measure that may not be necessary at this stage.

Luckily, there are resources out there that can help you learn to better cope with, and so help, your teenager manage this and other struggles they could be facing. Parenting courses can help lead you through every step, giving you the tools you need to communicate, read the signs, and guide your teen to a healthier place. Alongside trained professionals, these courses are a great alternative to inpatient treatment facilities.

To find out more about whether a parenting course is right for your situation, check out Parent Learning Center.

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