There are many pressures that face teens in 2013. As if puberty wasn’t enough to deal with, unemployment levels are high and education fees unaffordable – the future seems bleak.
So it’s understandable why many young people struggle to see where they fit within the world.
Mental health and wellbeing appears to be under the spotlight in the UK at the moment. This month, I’m offering you tips on how to spot depression amongst teenagers.
Everyweek I work with young people experiencing some form of depression. Many of these referrals come directly from the young person’s parents, and the most common question I’m asked is “ But isn’t this just part of being a teen?”.
What is depression?
Anyone can experience changes in their mood or feelings, but during adolescence this can be more intense, harder to understand and more likely to swing between positive and negative. This is a normal part of growing up, so it may be hard to recognise. However, depression is a sustained and overwhelming sense of sadness and if left untreated can lead to destructive behaviours later in life.
Signs and symptoms of depression in teens
Here are some general indicators that might help you differentiate between age-appropriate behavior and symptoms of depression.
• Tearful episodes
• Withdrawing from friendship groups
• Lack of motivation
• Irregular sleeping patterns ▪ Restlessness
▪ Low self esteem
▪ Fatigue or lack of energy
▪ Self harming/ scars on the body
▪ Falling behind at school
Tips for talking to a depressed teen
If you’re concerned your teen might be depressed and want to approach them about it, it’s important to consider the following:
Communicate your support
Make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need. Even if they don’t initially take you up on your offer, make them feel they can turn to you at a later date.
Understandably, this might be difficult for your son or daughter to talk about, so be mindful of your child’s comfort level. Communicate your willingness to listen as well as your concerns, but be prepared to take it slowly. If they find it hard to talk to you, suggest they write it down and leave it somewhere for you to find.
It’s so important to hear what your child is saying and step into their shoes. Try to resist your parental urges – things like offering advice, passing judgment or asking too many questions can overwhelm them. What’s important is that your child has the time and space to express how they’re feeling.
Acknowledging your child’s feelings helps validate their experience. By repeating and reflecting back what they’ve told you, you’re helping them to recognise that their feelings as genuine and worthy. The temptation can be to try to put a positive spin on things. But this can appear like you don’t understand where they’re coming from and can lead to them feeling like they shouldn’t have those feelings
Where to get help?
There are a range of treatments and therapies available to help young people combat their depression. Often a course of counselling or psychotherapy is enough, but in more severe cases, anti-depressants are prescribed. If you’re concerned about someone, the best thing to do is consult your GP who will usually refer you to your local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). Treatment from CAMHS is free on the NHS, however waiting lists are long and therefore some people prefer to seek help privately.