Recognizing depression in teenagers can often be difficult for parents. Teenagers are going through a time in their lives where they are learning to be independent, experiencing new social situations, taking risks, and they may be moody. They often begin sharing less with their parents. It can be hard to identify the difference between normal teenage behavior and teen depression.
Unfortunately, depression often appears for the first time during those teen years when they are going through a lot of changes. These changes usually occur between the ages of 15 and 18. What may appear to be normal teen withdrawal from parent involvement may actually be a symptom of depression.
What can parents do to help their teens and what should they watch for?
1. Having a good parent-child relationship is the best protection for teenagers. This includes having an environment that lets them speak openly about their feelings without fear of being judged or disappointing others.
2. Watch for any changes in behavior, such as being more withdrawn or isolating from friends and family. Be concerned with the sudden loss of interest in activities they have previously enjoyed, such as sports and school.
3. Talk to your teen. Don’t be afraid of the topic of suicide or self-harm. Teens have likely spoken with others about these topics or, at least, have read about them online.
4. Take their symptoms seriously. Seek professional help. Start with a counselor who can do an assessment and make recommendations. Do not leave this decision to your teen. You are the parent and it is your responsibility to keep them safe. Family counseling, as well as individual, can be helpful.
5. Be willing to consider antidepressants if necessary. Also be open to residential treatment if it is recommended.
Even teenagers from the most caring, loving, warm and accepting home can experience depression. It is not a reflection on your parenting, but rather a time to focus on the well-being of your teen.
If you are concerned about your teen, call 602-749-4405 and make an appointment to speak with one of our qualified counselors. Our low rates are based on your ability to pay. Offices are located throughout the valley and appointments are available on evenings to accommodate busy schedules. Spanish speaking counselors are also available.
Rebecca Sauer is a licensed professional counselor and the program manager for the counseling program at Catholic Charities.