With each new generation come new challenges or different versions of the same struggles that have affected teens for decades. Bullying, peer pressure, body shaming, negative self-perception — they can all lead to your teen getting depressed. As a parent, you might have your own list from when you were young, but you may be unsure if it fully equips you to help your teen through their own difficulties.
It is important for parents to properly identify if their teens are undergoing any mental health problems so they can help them. Support from parents can go a long way. Let’s take a look at how you can identify depression in your teenager and how you can help them cope or get through with it.
Identifying Depression In Teens
Given below are some signs that may indicate depression in your teenager.
- pulls away from family and friends
- seems depressed or irritable more days than not
- disengages in things that were once fun and enjoyable
- sleeps too much or not enough
- eats too much or not enough resulting in weight loss or gain
- appears lethargic and is unmotivated
- expresses feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
- pays little attention to personal hygiene
- expresses feelings of emptiness and being emotionally numb
- lacks the ability to focus and concentrate
- appears more argumentative and agitated than usual
- experiences bouts of crying without reason
- uses drugs to cope with problems
- engages in self-injurious behavior
- complains of stomach aches, headaches and other pains that don’t respond to treatment
- expresses thoughts about death or suicide
- some of these symptoms persist for two weeks or more
How You Can Help Your Teen Manage Depression?
If your teen is depressed, here are five things you can do right now to help him or her cope:
1. Stop and listen. Don’t worry about what to say; be understanding and encouraging and let your teen know that you’re right there every step of the way. Set aside some face-to-face time each day to speak with your teen. Make sure there are no distractions during your time together, such as a vibrating cell phone or having to take dinner out of the oven. Your teen needs your undivided attention. There is nothing that can be more healing than the power of your presence.
2. Stay the course. Separate depression from your teen, and don’t let the illness push you away. Even if your teen refuses to talk, there is comfort in just sitting on the sofa together and watching Netflix. Small steps can lead to great strides.
3. Do something together. Go for a walk, play a game of one-on-one basketball or take up a new hobby, such as cooking or woodworking. Slowly reintroduce your teen to fun social activities. Keep in mind that depression may lead your teen to disengage, but with time, your teen may come around to doing the things he or she once found enjoyable.
4. Go there. Don’t steer clear of difficult topics, such as suicide or drugs. Too often parents avoid the tough conversations; but these are the exchanges that can have the most positive impact. For example, if you find your teen self-medicating with pot, discuss how marijuana is a depressant and can intensify depression. Likewise, ask your teen about thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Don’t worry about planting a seed, if the thought is there, you aren’t reinforcing it by saying it out loud. By bringing up the difficult topics, you make it clear that any subject can be discussed – and that can be comforting to a depressed teen.
5. Get help. Take your teen to see a mental health professional and stick with the treatment plan. Depression doesn’t develop overnight, and it won’t go away overnight either. Work closely with your child’s doctor and therapist, and sign a release for both to communicate with one another. These professionals will form your teen’s treatment team.