ItÃ•s hard for parents to watch their children suffer. If you suspect your son or daughter may be depressed, seek medical attention for your child right away. Often, depression only worsens if left untreated. Medical treatment, however, is only part of the solution. There are a number of things you can do as a parent or caregiver to offer help for depression to a suffering teen.
Helping Depressed Teens by Learning about Depression
Unless youÃ•ve experienced teenage depression, it can be very difficult to understand what itÃ•s like. Depression is a mental illness thatÃ•s characterized by abnormally low moods that last for two or more weeks and prevent an individual from functioning normally. A depressed teen canÃ•t help the way she feels, and she canÃ•t just “snap out of it.” YouÃ•ll be in a much better position to offer help for depression if you learn about depression and do your best to understand what your teen is going through.
Teen depression is associated with an increased risk of suicide, so itÃ•s also important to learn about suicide and suicide warning signs. If you feel your teen is at risk of committing suicide you can:
- Call for emergency medical help
- Encourage him to talk to a school counselor or suicide crisis hotline counselor
- Ensure heÃ•s not left alone
- Hide firearms, medications and any other dangerous items
- Talk to him about how heÃ•s feeling.
Teen Depression Help: Offering Encouragement
Worthlessness and low self-esteem are both causes and effects of depression in teens. Your teen will need all the encouragement you can offer her. You can show your support by:
- Abstaining from making trivializing comments about her depression
- Building her up in her abilities and accomplishments
- Encouraging her to get the medical help she needs
- Ensuring that she knows that you are willing to listen whenever she feels like opening up to you
- Making sure she knows that you want to understand how she feels
- Spending time with her.
Helping Depressed Teens by Helping Them Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Depression is not merely a biological illness. There are many lifestyle factors that can cause or worsen the symptoms of depression. Healthy lifestyle choices, on the other hand, help to alleviate depression symptoms. Some of these include:
- A healthy diet
- An early bedtime to ensure enough sleep
- Avoiding alcohol, illegal drugs and caffeine
- Cultivating supportive friendships
- Engaging in enjoyable activities and hobbies
- Participating in social activities.
As a parent or caregiver, you may feel you donÃ•t have enough influence over your teen to enforce these lifestyle choices. You may, however, be able to reason with your teen by explaining that these lifestyle choices are just as important as drug therapy, or any other type of therapy prescribed by a doctor.
Barston, S. et al. (n.d.) Dealing with teen depression: Tips and tools for helping yourself or a friend. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the HelpGuide website: helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen_teenagers.htm.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Coping and support. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175/DSECTION=coping-and-support.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Depression: Supporting a family member or friend with depression. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/MH00016/NSECTIONGROUP=2.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Treatment and drugs. Retrieved May 7, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.
Nemade, R. et al. (n.d.) Depression: Major depression & unipolar varieties. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from the MentalHealth.net website: www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=438&cn=5.