It's easy to forget how dramatic and difficult it can be to be young. As we get older, we envy the energy and attitude of youth, missing the days when we could stay up late and still go 100 miles an hour the next day. We tend to gloss over the way it really was...the tension, the pressure, the demands, the frustration of being not quite a grown up. Teens are under a tremendous amount of pressure from home, school, friends, coaches, and even themselves. This pressure can often lead to teen depression.
If you are a parent coping with teen depression, there are things you can do to help your teen cope. Take a look at your teen's schedule; does he or she have too many obligations? Are your teen's nights and weekends filled with practices and games and performances and other things that keep them from having regular meals, homework time, and family time? Teen depression can often be caused by feeling overwhelmed and out of control.'
If your teen is too busy, teach him or her to take time to relax. Encourage balance through prioritizing. Help them choose one or two activities that are truly important to them and help them break away from doing more than they need to. Try to make family time where all of you can sit together and share a meal and talk. Talking and having a comfortable and safe home environment can reduce teen depression and help your teen recover.
When your son or daughter is suffering from teen depression, he or she may lash out in anger. Your teen may behave differently, have difficulty eating or sleeping, or become withdrawn. You may see more emotional outbursts or an inability to cope with the slightest change to routine or schedule. When teen depression escalates out of control, it can cause your teen to feel suicidal or become physically ill.
Signs of teen depression include:
- Ongoing sadness, anxiety, or feelings of emptiness
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Listlessness or unwillingness to engage in previously enjoyed activities
- Digestion problems
- Fatigue, restlessness, hopelessness
- Difficulty making decisions
- Thoughts of suicide
Often, depression can be treated with medication. Be cautious, however, because many depression medications that work well in adults can trigger suicidal thoughts in teens. Counseling and therapy may help your teen and you can avoid medications. If your teen does have to take medication for depression, be sure you talk to them about the side effects and monitor their behavior closely.
Before teen depression takes a firm hold, seek help for your teen. If scaling back on obligations and being there for your teen aren't enough to help, enlist the aid of a mental health professional. Don't dismiss the possibility that your teen is coping with something more serious. Depression can be genetic, but it can also be caused by devastating experiences like date rape, bullying, or academic difficulties.
If you are facing an urgent situation, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) in the U.S. or 1-800-448-3000 in Canada.