How to Help a Teen With Depression

by Polaris Teen Center | Mar 14, 2018 | Depression, Parenting Tips, Resources, Treatment

parenting a teen with depression
Depression is a very real condition and it is something that is uniquely likely to have an impact on teenagers. If you are a parent who believes that your teenager may be suffering from depression, it is important to get a diagnosis from a licensed professional and begin searching for effective treatment methods.

The causes of teenage depression can be very diverse. Depression can be triggered by outside forces—social situations, family dynamics, school, work, etc.—but it can also be triggered by natural chemical imbalances or the existence of other common psychological problems.

Because depression is a condition that exists upon a spectrum and because it can be caused by such a diverse array of factors, finding ways to effectively prevent teenage depression is something that has been fairly difficult for many psychologists. Fortunately, as time has gone on, continuous research on the subject has made the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of depression substantially better than before.

As a parent, the role you play in the life of your teenager is very important. Your daily interactions can have a profound effect on your teenager’s psychological well-being. Though the existence of depression can be characteristically different in every teenager who may have it, there are a number of things you can do that have been proven to help in some way.

Whether you are the parent of a teenager who is suffering from clinically-diagnosed depression or are worried that your teenager could likely become depressed in the future, taking these important steps can have a tremendous impact on their overall well-being.

Be proactive about recognizing the signs and symptoms of teenage depression

One of the most common problems associated with recognizing depression is that parents assume the signs and symptoms will be obvious. But, contrary to conditions such as diabetes that exist as a binary (you either have it or you don’t), depression is something that exists along a spectrum.

There are numerous different signs and symptoms of teenage depression. Some individuals will experience certain symptoms but not others. Similarly, the intensity of each of these symptoms can vary tremendously between any two given individuals.

  • Persistent sadness over an extended period of time
  • Low mood, low self-esteem, and an apparent lack of motivation
  • Patterns of self-harm or suicide ideation
  • Loss of interest in various activities
  • Problems with sleeping or eating
  • Substance abuse
  • The existence of other mental health conditions (anxiety, PTSD, etc.)
  • Other symptoms

It is important to recognize that clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder) is something that is distinctively different than ordinary sadness. Depression is something that is consistent, burdensome, and extraordinary. Instead of expecting your teenager to come to you and say they are depressed, it is generally a better idea to be actively monitoring for these symptoms.

Educate your teenager about the importance of mental health

As a parent, you can have a profound impact on the way your teenager understands their world. Though mental health is something that has gained an increased amount of attention in our schools, helping to further your teenager’s understanding of common mental health issues can be incredibly beneficial.

There are a number of different ways you can help your teenager learn about depression and mental health. By having literature (such as a book written specifically for teens) readily available, your teenager can have a resource to turn to that doesn’t necessarily involve having a discussion with their parents. Additionally, taking the time to talk about various mental health issues and how there is help available if necessary can yield surprisingly productive results.

Try to minimize screen time and media use

Over the past few decades, teenagers have been generally overwhelmed by a dramatic increase in the amount of media that is available. Between the rise of the internet, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle, taking a break from the constant stream of media has become more important—yet more difficult—than ever before.

There have been numerous clinical studies revealing a strong correlation between excessive media consumption and teenage depression. Limiting screen time and media usage is very important. The ways in which you can most effectively enact these limits will depend on your teenager and specific family dynamic.

Make it easy for your teenager to be physically healthy

Though teenage depression is something that can be caused by a wide range of outside factors, one of the most effective ways to combat depression is by living a physically healthy lifestyle. Being physically healthy will require a variety of different actions.

  • Trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night—this is especially important for the developing brain of a teenager
  • Eating a healthy diet that features an ample number of fruits and vegetables
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Regularly exercising (running, swimming, biking, yoga, etc.)
  • Going outside and being generally active

Often times, instead of simply telling your teenager how to live a healthier lifestyle, it is more effective to make these changes as a team. Not only will making changes to diet, sleeping, and exercise routines help your teenage who is struggling with depression—these changes will also help you as an adult.

Offer unconditional love and support

Despite the diverse array of causes, what seems to remain universally true is that all teenagers can benefit from the unconditional love and support of their parents.

Being the parent of a teenager who is currently suffering from depression can be incredibly difficult. There might be days where they simply do not want to get out of bed. You might want to yell at them about the importance of working and getting their life together. But instead of motivating your teenager through fear or an appeal to authority, offering love and support is something that can be much more effective.

Unconditional love is something that, as the phrase itself might imply, needs to be offered unconditionally. As a parent, it is your job to make clear that you will be there to love and support your teenager no matter what might happen. Having someone there for them despite what is happening in school, in their social life, or anywhere else can be incredibly beneficial for a teenager suffering from depression.

Create an environment where your teen can be comfortable talking about their issues

One of the common reasons a teenager’s state of depression might get worse is the fact that they internalize their issues instead of finding a productive outlet. As a parent, you have the potential to be the productive outlet your teenager needs in order to begin healing.

Though it might be unreasonable to expect your teenager to come to you and outright declare their state of depression, consistently reminding your teenager that “if you ever need to talk, I am here for you,” is something that can be incredibly beneficial. By establishing yourself as a reliable resource—whether your teenager ever acts on your offer or not—you will be in a position where your teenager doesn’t have to feel so lost and alone in the world.

Know when it is time to seek outside help

Lastly, though there are clearly numerous different ways you can help as a parent, it is important to recognize that there are some problems that are simply too much for you to solve on your own. If your teenager is suffering from a state of depression that cannot be effectively managed, then you may be in a position where you need to seek outside help.

Because depression is statistically one of the most common mental health issues experienced by teenagers, there has been a tremendous amount of research conducted on different treatment options.

  • Individual or group therapy sessions
  • Continually improving medications
  • Experiential treatment options (treatment such as meditation, art, music, etc.)
  • Residential treatment centers
  • Various other treatment options

Teenage depression is something that can be very difficult to address. But just because your teenager is depressed, that does not mean they will be unable to grow up and accomplish great things. There are many treatment options that are readily available and within reach.

As a parent, you play a very important role in your teenager’s ongoing development. By establishing yourself as a reliable resource, offering unconditional love and support, and taking these other measures to effectively combat depression, you can be the essential source of change that your teenager is searching for. For more information on Polaris Teen Center, or to learn more about our Residential Youth Programs, contact us at 1-844-836-0222.

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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).