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Parent Information on Teen Depression
Parent Information on Teen Depression
Valentine Community Schools
Monday, June 01, 2020

Parents:  It isn’t always the easiest process to distinguish between normal teenage growing pains and depression. But here is help for how you can recognize the signs and symptoms to best help your child.

Understanding Teen Depression

  • Depression impacts more teens than we often know - around 1 in 5 teenagers suffers from depression.  

  • The good news is that depression is very treatable, but sadly, too many teens never receive help.

How Teens Act Out to Cope with Emotional Pain:

  • Problems at school:  poor attendance, grades dropping, or other sudden changes

  • Running away

  • Alcohol/Drug Abuse

  • Low Self-Esteem

  • Excessive online addiction - may be escaping problems and increases their isolation

  • Reckless Behaviors

  • Aggression or Violence

  • Self-Harm

“Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the help they need. But that isn’t always easy. For one, teens with depression don’t necessarily appear sad. Instead, irritability, anger, and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms” (Smith, Robinson, & Segal, 2019).

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Irritability, anger, or hostility

  • Sadness or hopelessness

  • Tearfulness or frequent crying

  • Withdrawal from friends and family

  • Loss of interest in activities

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

  • Restlessness and agitation

  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt

  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation

  • Fatigue or lack of energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Unexplained aches and pains

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Suicide Warning Signs to Watch For:

  • Talking or joking about committing suicide

  • Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I would disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out”

  • Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)

  • Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide

  • Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury

  • Giving away prized possessions

  • Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time

  • Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves

How To Help:

  1. Don’t wait hoping that the situation will just resolve itself.

  2. Talk to your child in a loving and non-judgmental way.

  3. Start the conversation by talking about what you have noticed and why it worries you.  Then, ask your child what they are going through, and be truly ready to listen.  Don’t interrupt with too many questions.

  4. Your best efforts will not come in the form of a lecture, but the assurance that you are there for them unconditionally.  Do not be deterred if they shut you out at first.

  5. Acknowledge their feelings.  Even if what they share seems irrational to you, telling your child that they “don’t have anything to be sad about” or “you shouldn’t be worrying about that” will only isolate them further.

  6. Trust your instincts, and get them further help when needed.  This can come from your medical doctor, a mental health counselor, or your school counselor.

  7. Consider removal and security of weapons, pills, or other methods in which self-harm could take place.

Coping Strategies:

  • Encourage them to spend time with friends and family.

  • Set aside time each day to talk with them.  Remember:  discussing suicide and depression will not make the situation worse or give them ideas.  It can, however, make all the difference in recovering.

  • Get them involved:  sports, art, dance, fishing, or whatever else he/she is interested in.

  • Physical activity is critical.  Get them moving.

  • Set limits on screen time.

  • Promote healthy sleep times.  Teens need more sleep than we often realize - 9 hours per night is ideal.

For more information, see: