“Are you okay? You seem upset.”
One word with only four letters, but the idea of “fine,” could mean so much more than a moody teenager’s grumpy response.
Depression is one of the most common and misunderstood mental health disorders amongst teenagers today. However, identifying and understanding symptoms can be one of the best ways to prevent depression from escalating to more severe consequences.
Symptoms of teen depression can include the following:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger, hostility
- Frequent crying, tearfulness
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
- Changes in eating/sleeping habits
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Talking to a depressed teen can be difficult; however, four things to keep in mind can truly strengthen your relationship with your teen and help them to open up to you.
- Offer support—Let your teen know you’re there unconditionally. Don’t be overbearing with questions and make it clear that you’re ready and willing to do whatever it takes.
- Be gentle but persistent—Don’t be deterred by the possibility of your teen’s initial rejection. Talking and opening up can be incredibly difficult at first, so it’s important to respect your teen’s comfort while still reassuring them that you’re there and ready to listen.
- Listen, don’t lecture—It’s incredibly important not to criticize or pass judgment once your teen opens up. Embrace communication and avoid offering advice where it’s not wanted or pressuring them with ultimatums.
- Validate feelings—Don’t try to talk your teen “out” of their depression. Acknowledge their pain and stress just as you do your own, or you may leave them feeling like they don’t matter to you.
Depression shouldn’t be taken lightly
Depression can lead to more serious consequences including anxiety, substance abuse, and even suicide attempts. It’s important to know that depression can be treated through counseling, medication and other methods. Looking into those methods and what’s right for your loved one should be a team activity between you and your teen as they know what feels right in the moment and what makes them feel comfortable.
Remember, as a parent, you don’t have to struggle and deal with this alone. There are many different resources available in Western New York. Call the Painkillers Kill HOPE line to find out more.