Teenagers go through a lot of changes, but depression can also strike. In fact, teen depression is common, and it is estimated that one out of every five adolescents will suffer from depression at some point while they are in their teenage years. Check out this article about how therapy can benefit teenagers who are struggling with mental health issues.
When a teenager struggles from depression, their entire life can be negatively impacted. However, depression is treatable, and their parents and other loved ones can help with love, support, and guidance.
How to Recognize Depression in Teens
Sometimes it can be hard to recognize depression in teenagers because a lot of teenagers tend to be angsty and moody. However, the symptoms associated with depression go beyond sadness and moodiness. Depression can affect a teenager’s personality and behaviour. There are also some signs that you can be aware of.
Teenagers who suffer from depression often develop problems at school because the symptoms include a lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, and low energy. This may cause a bad attendance record and lower grades, even with teens who have always done well and that are normally studious.
A lot of depressed teens speak of and sometimes attempt to run away from home. These are usually a cry for help. They are also prone to substance abuse, including alcohol. Teenagers often use substances to try to relieve the symptoms associated with their depression. However, this just makes things worse.
Depression can cause low self-esteem which may present itself as shame, failure, or unworthiness. In addition, not all teens show signs of sadness and may be more likely to develop irritability, anger, or even violence and reckless behaviour. They may lose interest in the things that they used to enjoy as well.
Since severe depression can lead to suicide, it is also a good idea to recognize the warning signs. Any suicidal thoughts or behaviours should be taken very seriously and are usually a cry for help. These signs may present themselves as briefly talking or even joking about suicide. They may say that there is no way out, no hope, or that they, or their loved ones, would be better off if they were not alive.
Ways to Help Your Depressed Teen
If your teen is suffering from depression, then there are things that you can do in support of them. First of all, you should educate yourself about depression. This will give you a better idea of what your teen is struggling with and provide insights into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Also, be available physically and emotionally. Encourage open, non-judgmental conversation about anything that is bothering them.
It is also a good idea to explain the facts of depression to your teenage child. There is a lot of misinformation about depression and your teen may not understand how common it can be. Compare depression to another medical illness that they are knowledgeable about. This can help them understand why treatment is important and explain the symptoms that they have been experiencing.
Depression can cause a teenager to avoid social interaction. This can cause symptoms to worsen and produce feelings of loneliness and isolation. It is important that they retain supportive relationships. Encourage them to build relationships and show that you support your child.
Since there is still a strong social stigma that surrounds mental illness, it is important that you address any myths that your teen may have heard. You can speak with your teen about what they are feeling and thoughts about mental illness and their depression diagnosis. Be sure to remind your teen that other people often are misinformed, if informed at all, about mental illness.
There should always be a focus on listening. You do not want your teenager to believe that you are trying to lecture them. Sure, it is okay to provide information, but make sure that you are open for them to express their feelings, thoughts, and desires with you.
Let us look at some of the strategies that you can utilize when helping a teen who suffers from depression.
Developing Positive Social Interaction
Since depression can cause a teenager to withdraw away from their friends and lose interest in the things that they normally would enjoy, it is important to help them reconnect. This is especially true because isolation can make the symptoms of depression worse.
It is a good idea to set time aside every day so that your teen can participate in face-to-face interaction. This type of interaction is important, so make sure that you encourage it with your teen even if they interact on the internet or phone with people.
You can also encourage them to invite friends over or to go out and spend time with their friends. Do things with your family that are enjoyable like go to a park, go out to eat, or have a family movie or game night. It may also be good to suggest that they join a club or participate in a sport or other activity. Art can be therapeutic as well and offer a unique way for your teen to express themselves. Physical activity can be beneficial for mental health so sports or other outdoor activities may be a good option for some teens as well.
Some teens also like to volunteer or help others. This can be great for boosting motivation and self-esteem. You can even go with your teen in support of their interests. These types of activities provide social interaction as well as a sense of fulfilment and purpose that they may be craving.
Encourage Good Physical Health
Physical health impacts mental health and vice versa. The lack of motivation caused by depression can lead to inactivity, poor nutrition, unhealthy or risky habits, and poor sleep quality. Teenagers suffering from depression may develop unhealthy sleeping patterns or use their phones or other devices more than normal. They may also eat more junk food and turn to alcohol or drugs. All of these things can exacerbate symptoms related to depression.
Exercise is incredibly important for good mental health, so do whatever you can to encourage your teen. Teenagers may not enjoy working out, but they will probably like some types of physical activity. You can take them swimming or play a game of one-on-one basketball. They may even enjoy taking a walk or dancing. Whatever your teen likes to do that provides them with physical activity is important.
It may also be a good idea to set limits on screen time, especially before bed. Teenagers have more freedoms, but you are still their guardian and there need to be limits, especially when mental health is involved. You can set a time when they have to be in their bedroom without their devices and then have a separate time for lights out. This can encourage more sleep and better-quality sleep. Also, if your teenager is on their device less then they may be more likely to do other things that they enjoy.
Nutrition is also incredibly important so you should strive to provide well-balanced meals. This can help support a positive mood and good brain health. Limiting sodas and other unhealthy sugary foods can also go a long way. Even just having healthy snacks like nuts or fruit around can be a good idea because your teen will be more likely to grab it between meals.
When to Seek Professional Help
Healthy choices and a good support system can do a lot to improve mental health, but that does not mean that it is going to be enough. When depression is long-lasting or severe, contact a mental health professional who has a background and training that qualifies them to treat teenagers.
It is a good idea to involve your teen when choosing their treatment options or mental health professional. Do not ignore their preferences. These things could be the age or gender of the professional or the time or day of the week that they prefer to go to a session. They may even prefer traditional or online therapy over the other.
The main thing is to speak with your teen and seek the help that they need. Show them that you care and support them without being judgmental. Listen to them and encourage healthy behaviours like social interaction, healthy eating, and regular exercise. These things can help to make therapy more effective as well.