The adolescent years are a time of great emotional and physical change. Teens are notorious for their volatile tempers, high emotions and low lows during this time, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether your teen is strugglingwith depression or simply “the blues.” In reality, teen depression is something that affects every area of life and can lead to more damaging behaviors, such as self-mutilation, substance abuse, pregnancy, violence or even suicide. Parents should be alert to the signs and symptoms of depression in their teen.
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger or hostility
- Frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and loss of interest in regular activities
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Changes in weight or eating and sleeping habits
- Lack of motivation or enthusiasm
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- Sudden problems at school
- Restlessness, agitation or difficulty concentrating
While some of these symptoms are present in most teens at some point, parents should consider how long they have been present and how severe they are. Long lasting changes in behavior, mood or personality should be taken very seriously.
Should I Worry About Suicide?
A depressed teenwill sometimes talk about death or suicide or even make an attempt. There are an increasing number of successful teen suicides and parents should be aware of red flags and warning signs.
- Talking about death or committing suicide, even in jokes
- Phrases such as “I wish I could disappear” or “I’d be better off dead”
- Writing songs, stories or poems about dying, death or suicide
- Seeking out pills, weapons or other ways to kill themselves
- Giving away possessions
- Engaging in reckless behavior
- Saying good-bye to friends and loved ones
What Do I Do?
If you suspect that your teen is suffering from depression, take action as soon as possible. Share your initial concerns with your child as well as specific things you have noticed and allow him a chance to open up and talk.
- Offer support – Without asking a lot of questions, let your teen know that you are there to support him in whatever way he needs.
- Be gently persistent – It is not enough to attempt discussion with your teen once and it is not unusual for him to want to shut you out. Try to be respectful of his comfort level, while making it clear that you are concerned and willing to listen and help him.
- Listen – Resist the urge to lecture or pass judgment if your teen does begin to open up. At this point, he needs someone to listen, not offer unsolicited advice or solutions.
- Validate – The causes for your teen’s depression are very real to him, even if they seem minor or even silly to you. Validate how he is feeling by acknowledging his pain and sadness so he knows that you take his emotions seriously.
Depression should not be left untreated. Make an appointment for your teen to see a doctor for a depression screening. Come prepared with descriptions of his symptoms and how long they have been presentas well as any patterns that you have noticed. Depression can sometimes be genetic, so also list any close family members who have also struggled with it.
Your doctor can then refer you to a therapist or other specialist who can provide your teen with a plan of care to help him overcome his depression. The road to recovery is often slow and bumpy, so be patient, while cheering on the small victories that will inevitably come. Above all, don’t blame yourself or your teen or compare your family to others. You are your child’s best support and resource for healing.
Liahona Academy is a residential treatment center located in southern Utah. We specialize in helping troubled teen boys overcome depression and other challenges that interfere with healthy development. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your son’s needs. 1-800-675-8101