Let’s face it, teenagers get moody and depressed. It’s a part of their biological makeup. As hormones are racing through their bodies, their emotions jump on that same roller coaster. The parents who come into my office are often looking for answers so I’ve decided to write this blog post for all the parents out there who are worried about their depressed teenager.
Below I’ve outlined ten things you can do when you suspect your teen is depressed:
1. Talk to them about it
It’s important to talk to your teenager about their depression and how they feel. They may not open up to you about it but it’s key to let them know you are there for them to talk about whatever is going on in their lives, not just their depression.
2. Empathize with them
If you’ve never experienced depression for yourself, it might be hard to put yourself in your teen’s shoes. You may look at them and think how they lucky are to have opportunities you never had. Depression is not about whether they have the latest shoes or the privileges they are afforded in life. Depression is related to how they see themselves and the world. Work on understanding your teen’s feelings and it will help you to better understand them.
3. Don’t try to fix their problems
One common route that parents often take is to try to fix whatever issues and problems their child is experiencing. Your teen is at a pivotal stage in their life and they need to learn the necessary skills for problem solving. One way they can learn that is solving some of the problems leading to their depression.
4. Give them resources to use
There are some really great resources out there specifically for teenagers and depression. One of my favorite workbooks to use with teens and depression is called “Beyond the Blues: A Workbook to Help Teens Overcome Depression”. Ask them if they want to attend a self-help group for teens. Encourage them to use any resources their school might have to offer.
5. Monitor their symptoms
There are specific symptoms you can monitor in your teen and they include sleep patterns, eating patterns, feelings of guilt, loss of interest in things they were normally interested in, energy levels, difficulty concentrating, feelings of irritation/agitation, self-reported feelings of depression and suicidal ideation/attempts. If your teen has thoughts of suicide or has attempted, it is imperative you seek the help of a mental health professional or contact 911.
6. Have them get a physical from their doctor
One of my main recommendations for anyone coming in with depressive feelings is to get a physical by your doctor. It is important to rule-out any physical causes for depression, such as low Vitamin D. A complete physical with blood work is a good place to start.
7. Honor their requests but watch for warning signs
When people feel depressed, it is common for teens to want to lay in bed and isolate. It is important to honor your teen’s request to take it easy; however if you have noticed your teen’s symptoms have worsened over the week, it might be a good idea to get them to go out to dinner with your family. As for school, it is important your teenager attend school on a regular basis even if they feel too depressed to attend.
8. Educate yourself
You are starting the education process by reading this post. Keep reading other blog posts and articles about depression and teenagers. The more information you have about it the better. Read a book about depression for yourself. I strongly recommend beginning with “The Feeling Good Handbook” by Dr. David Burns.
9. Love them no matter what
It’s a guarantee that your teen does not want to feel depressed. They are probably not doing it for attention. They just need to know you love them and that you are there for them. Keep the lines of communication open and love them just the way they are, depressed or not.
10. Have them meet with a therapist that specializes in teens and depression
Enlisting the help of a mental health professional will provide you and your family with the support you may need. The therapist can meet individually with your teenager, while also meeting with your family for the purposes of helping everyone to understand depression and how to best help. Look into finding a therapist that works specifically with teens and depression. Look at their website, recent blog posts and other information you can find about them to see if they will be a good fit.
If you suspect your teenager is depressed, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with someone, such as a local therapist, who can provide you with accurate information.
Check out another post on suggestions for using music to reduce depression here!
Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP , Mental Health Counselor of the Year by the Florida Mental Health Counseling Association, decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Amanda has been a therapist for ten years and has a private practice in Wellington, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and substance abuse in teenagers and young adults. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here.