A Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression
Although being moody and irritable is often normal for teenagers, depression is not simply a side effect of growing up. Depression is a serious medical condition that affects approximately one in five teens before they reach adulthood and is the leading cause of teen suicide. Parents often feel concerned and unsure of what to do when they think their teen may be depressed. Talking with your teens regularly, listening to what they have to say, and keeping up with their activities, go a long way to preventing and identifying any depression they may be experiencing. In this blog post, Meg Durbin, M.D., an Internal Medicine doctor and pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, offers some insights into depression, and answers parents’ commonly asked questions on teen depression and how to help.
I think my teenage son may be depressed. What should I do?
Try to make your teen comfortable by asking questions in a nonjudgmental way. Keep an open mind while listening to what he has to say. Consider asking questions such as: “How are you doing? Are you feeling stressed? Have you been feeling sad or down most of the time?” Helping your teen identify and figure out how to cope with stress (whether academics or peer relationships) is an important part of growing up and an important responsibility for parents. Sharing how you cope with stress can be helpful, too. For example, you could say: “You know, when I feel stressed out, I find that taking a stroll helps to clear my head and calm me down. Why don’t we take a walk together?”
My two teenagers are very moody. How can I tell if they are depressed?
Don’t be afraid to ask your teen about moodiness or changes in behavior. In addition, look for the following signs and symptoms that can indicate teen depression:
- Persistent mood changes, especially irritability or sadness
- Feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless
- Increased anger, fighting and self-destructive behavior
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Withdrawal from friends
- Increase or decrease in sleep or appetite
- Excessive or uncontrollable crying
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Preoccupation with thoughts of death
- Drop in academic performance
My 15-year-old daughter seems depressed. I’m concerned about what she might do to herself. What should I do?
If you are really concerned that your daughter may have serious depression, it’s OK to ask whether she has had thoughts of harming herself. Direct questioning about self harm does not push people over the edge and drive them to attempt suicide. In fact, bringing such a discussion into the open can be a relief to someone who harbors such thoughts but hasn’t yet sought help. At the same time, don’t feel like you have to assume the role of a suicide counselor or therapist: seek help if you are concerned about your daughter’s mood or behavior.
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If you are concerned about your teen, Adolescent Counseling Services offers affordable counseling for youth and parents through our After-School Counseling Program.
To book an initial assessment with a trained therapist contact, Connie Mayer, Director of Outpatient Counseling Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 650-424-0852 ext 104.