How to support your teenager with depression
Teen years is that stage of life when a person transitions from childhood into adulthood, and in the process discovers his/her inner self and experiments with new things. However, it also comes with a set of new responsibilities and questions like who they are and where they fit in. In the pursuit of making a space for themselves in the society, a teen may suffer from various mental health problems like depression, also known as teenage depression. Considering their tender age and developing mind, teenagers are more likely to develop mental health issues like depression.
Teenager depression is much more than normal moodiness. It is a serious health problem that affects every aspect of a teen’s life. Teen depression affects teenagers much more than many of us could ever realize. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression affects approximately 12.8 percent of the U.S. population, aged 12 to 17.
Ways to know if your child is depressed
It is not easy dealing with depression in children. It can be a daunting task for both the teenager and his/her loved ones. While signs of depression in teens are quite similar to the signs of depression among adults, it is always better to be aware about some common depression symptoms among teens so that it gets easy to identify its presence and offer the right kind of help at the right time. Some of the common symptoms of depression in teens include:
- Is your child facing problems at school related to homework, attendance, etc.?
- Is your child having poor self-esteem?
- Is your child behaving recklessly or rudely with others?
- Is your child feeling low or sad?
- Does your child display signs of anger and irritation?
- Does your child cry frequently?
- Is your child losing interest in activities he/she once enjoyed?
- Has your child’s eating and sleeping pattern changed?
- Does your child get restless at times?
- Does he/she feel guilty without any reasons?
- Does he/she feel low on energy?
- Is it difficult for him/her to concentrate?
- Does he/she experience unexplained aches?
- Has he/she ever thought of suicide?
Depression in teens v/s depression in adults
While depression is a mental health condition that is expected to affect both the teens and adults in a similar manner, research has proved that it affects each individual differently. Some of the common symptoms that are more likely to affect children with depression compared to adults with depression are mentioned here:
It is a common sight to see a teenager irritated, specifically in case he/she is suffering from depression. Feeling irritated or being angry can actually make the teenager feel frustrated that can make him/her burst out at times.
- Inexplicable pains
Teens are more likely to complain about some unexplained pains and aches like headache and stomachache. It is important to take medical advice immediately so that the exact cause of any such pain can be identified. In case, no apparent cause is identified, these aches are most likely an indicator of depression.
- High sensitivity to criticism
Adults can somehow manage criticism, but it will be difficult for a child to do so. Their feelings of worthlessness and vulnerability to criticism is a major problem, especially among those who are over achievers.
- Staying in touch with close friends
It is common to see adults withdrawing from social circles when affected by depression. But teenagers with depression do just the opposite. They prefer to stay in touch with the minimum number of people. These individuals are mostly a few of their close friends.
- Sleeping pattern
Though depression affects an adult’s sleeping pattern and leads to insomnia, a teenager with depression may experience an erratic sleeping pattern. For instance, he/she might begin sleeping at odd hours, may be during the day.
Dos and don’ts when helping a child with depression
There can be various causes of teenage depression, such as stress at school, family history, brain chemicals and peer pressure. But since every child is different, the cause behind every child’s depression would be unique. Therefore, it is important that parents and loved ones stay aware about some common causes of teenage depression so that they can find out the best possible way to offer help. It is also very likely that the child won’t accept the presence of a mental health issue. Therefore, one must keep some common dos and don’ts in mind when helping a teenager with depression.
How to help your teenager with depression
Being a parent is a great feeling, full of immense joy and happiness. But what makes it tough is witnessing the hardships that your child may have to face at some or the other point in life. And, if it is in the form of mental illness like depression, then you might even feel helpless. Since the effects of teenage depression are devastating, sometimes even leading to death or suicide, it is important for parents to be aware about the ways in which they can offer help to their child with depression. Read on to know some easy tips on how to support your teenager with depression:
- Be supportive and express empathy to strengthen your relationship.
- Do not criticize or pass judgment.
- Focus on listening to your child patiently.
- Respect their comfort level while gently emphasizing them to talk.
- Acknowledge their feelings to make them feel understood.
- Set aside some time each day to talk to your child.
- Encourage your child to make new friends and develop social circles.
- Inspire your child to engage in activities that are of his/her interest like dancing, singing or swimming.
- Get your teen active by inspiring him/her to indulge in physical activity, at least for an hour every day.
- Set healthy limitations to use online tools and platforms.
- Make him/her eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet.
- Encourage your child to take plenty of sleep.
- Try to identify the presence of any loss or grief issues in your child.
- Reduce stress, specifically due to factors like schoolwork and everyday chores.
- Keep substances that are prone to misuse like medicines and alcohol out of reach.
- Help your child develop a positive attitude toward life.
- Help your child manage his/her tasks better by setting priorities for them.
- Assist them with a list of people to talk when feeling low or depressed.
- Inspire him/her to seek the right kind of help.
- Ensure that your child is taking proper medication and attending therapy as required.
Taking care of yourself
For a parent to be able to take care of his/her child dealing with depression, it is important for him/her to stay strong and healthy. It is true that parents begin to focus all their energy and attention on the child dealing with depression, but they must understand that doing so at the cost of their own health will not do any good.
In simple terms, this implies that one must seek help from an expert, as it is almost impossible to offer complete support at one’s own end. Moreover, parents must also develop their own support system as this would help them stay happy and seek the right kind of help at the right time.
It is very likely that you might feel overwhelmed, frustrated and angry at times. If you feel so, it is okay to vent it out and feel better. Just like the teen, it is also important for the parents to sleep at the right time, eat healthy food and indulge in activities you enjoy.
Depression among children is spreading like wild fire. Therefore, parents shoulder a big responsibility of identifying any probable signs of depression in their children. One of the most important factors that might exacerbate the situation is not seeking the right kind of help at the right time. Therefore, be alert and prompt in helping your child so that he/she can lead a healthy and productive life.