Teens face challenges today that, fifty years ago, were unimaginable. Climate change had not become a public issue. Cell phones, computers, and social media were only whispers of the future. Most foods still had recognizable ingredients.
Today, the world is evolving so fast. Teens must cope with the changes happening inside as well as outside of their bodies. Often, they are overwhelmed emotionally and mentally, so the result may be depression. Teen depression and suicide are on the rise. Between 2007 to 2015, “The number of girls age 15 to 19 committing suicide doubled [while the] suicide rate [for boys] climbed by more than 30 percent”, shares Freedom Counseling. “Suicidal gestures increased across all age groups, [but] the largest increase was among 15- to 17-year-olds.” With this statistic, recognizing depression has become even more important for parents to ensure the health and safety of their children.
Teen Signs of Depression
Depression manifests itself differently in different people, and no one sign has a direct link to depression. Being a parent or family member of a teen, knowing the signs of depression can let you know there may be something amiss.
Spending More Time Alone
You may notice that your teen may start to avoid spending time with family and friends. Teens tend to isolate themselves when feeling depressed due to low self-esteem and inability to cope with social situations.
New behaviors that appear reckless and without self-regard are a common sign of depression. Look for changes in personality, acting out, or being disobedient. Behavioral trouble at school is a warning sign. Additionally, you may see an increased use of drugs and alcohol. This behavior may be a form of acting out, or it could be an escape mechanism your teen uses for their depression. Casually check your teen when they come home from social events by engaging them in conversation when they return home.
Talking about Not Belonging
Talking about not belonging or being a burden can be normal occasionally, but it is an alert to depression if spoken or written often. Conversations about hopelessness or feeling may become a reoccurring theme. Be aware of what your children are talking about and note if these topics become more commonplace.
Fascination with Death
Mentioning wanting to die or a fascination with suicide may only appear as your teen being dramatic, but it is a vital sign of depression. Generally, you should monitor any fascination with death your teen expresses. Focused writing or drawings with death as the theme, or mimicking suicide by acting it out are all notable signs of depression and suicide risk.
There is a myriad of warning signs of depression. While the ones above are some of the most common signals, it is crucial to look for the following behaviors well:
- Noticeable changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Throwing out or giving away personal belongings that have meaning to your teen
- Lack of interest in school, learning, as well as declining grades
- Sudden mood swings without noticeable cause
Ways Parents and Family Members Can Help
As natural support members of a teen, the family is the first go-to that teens need must assist them through this rough patch in their life. Each teen is different, so some of these suggestions may not apply to your situation.
Staying Connected to Your Teen
Creating daily one-on-one face time is a subtle way of staying abreast of the events they are engaged in as well as giving you time to evaluate their mental and emotional health. During this time, give them your full attention, avoid distractions, and do not multitask. They need to know you think their life is essential.
Get Involved in Their Social Schedule
Plan events that get them into social situations with friends. Create events that your teen will feel relaxed, not stressed. Get them involved in the planning, as this is an excellent way for them to communicate their preferences. Things change quickly in the social life of a teen, so what was of interest a few days ago may not be so today.
Stay Positive in Your Relationship
Teens are naturally uncertain, so try to avoid criticism. In making suggestions, praise their ideas and then interject phrases such as “What a great idea, but have you thought about this?” They need to build healthy self-esteem, knowing that you are not merely discounting their input. This phrasing is a way to insert guidance while praising their efforts.
Help Them Become a Community Activist
Volunteer work will get them out of the house while encouraging them to develop a sense of stewardship. Ask them to invite a friend to join in. Setting goals that help with creating achievement are excellent for defusing depression.
Think “Let’s Get Physical”
Starting a routine of outdoor exercise can be fun. Set a challenge of walking different park paths in the area, as an example. How about birdwatching in different environments. Planting a garden is another example that requires physical interaction. Let them choose the activity that they will enjoy and look forward to.
Limit Screen Time
Electronic devices can become addictive, but they are no substitute for face to face human interaction. Even though they are a fact of life in these times, unlimited amounts of screen time allowed in a day can deepen the issue of depression. Encourage ways to be creative so that your teen has an outlet for personal expression that shows tangible results.
Prioritize Healthy Habits
Your job is to provide healthy and well-balanced meals combined with encouraging healthy sleep habits. This suggestion may seem basic, but in this hectic world, it is too easy to let good, healthy habits slip through the cracks. Take time to educate your teen as to the importance of eating well and getting enough sleep concerning things like looking their best and being on top of their game physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Seek Professional Help
If you have tried everything you can think of, and you still feel that your teen is sinking further into the depths of depression, it may be time to call in professionals to assist your situation. The important thing is to let your teen be a part of the process. The assistance will be far more productive with your teen’s cooperation. Explore the options available to you together as a team. Be sure to let them know that you are their primary support, and both of you can get this solved together.
Use Drug Therapy as a Last Resort
Most anti-depressant drugs are for adult use. The stats are still out how they react with developing minds and bodies. Exchanging one set of problems for another is not a viable long-term solution unless there is an underlying medical problem such as a bi-polar condition. Think long term effects when using a drug therapy approach.
Everyone is Part of the Solution
Remember, this is not a matter of finding fault or casting blame. Your teen’s well-being is the primary concern. Allow the whole family to be a part of the solution. Strongly urge a positive environment with loving gestures added with plenty of patience.