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Supporting Your Depressed Teen



Depression is serious, and often teens who struggle with depression cannot get through it alone. Approximately one in eight teens is depressed. Depression is treatable and the earlier you recognize signs of your depression, the sooner you can reach out to help them. As the parent or friend of a teen, it can be hard to tell if they are depressed or just “being a teenager.” Many parents report thinking their child would feel better with time. They realized later that depression was the underlying issue, and that their child needed help to deal with their depression.

Recognizing Depression in Your Teen

Teens have large mood and behavior swings but bounce back from low points rather quickly. A teen struggling with depression, on the other hand, will show some or all these signs consistently over several weeks to months. If the latter is the case for you, then you may want to consider seeking out help.

Signs of Depression Include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Hopelessness
  • Sad, angry or empty feeling
  • Withdrawal from friends and isolation
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Expressing thoughts of suicide or apathy towards life.
  • Aches and pains with no apparent cause
  • Consistent fatigue, even with lots of sleep

How to Talk to Your Teen About Depression

Start With Yourself

Much like the advice on airplanes to put your oxygen mask on first, start by checking in with yourself. Depressed teens already have a lot of negative thoughts about themselves and the last thing that they need is your judgment. Start by recognizing your judgment, so you can set it aside and focus on connecting compassionately with your loved one. Remember that a chemical imbalance in their brain is primarily responsible for their behavior. Approaching these discussions from the right place is important.

Be Direct & Compassionate

When you talk to your loved one about what’s going on, focus on your observations. Start with your observations of the specific behavioral changes you have noticed (remember not to attach judgment to these observations). Be prepared to listen and make sure that you understand them. Refrain from any lecturing, focus on connecting with them (the motto is “connect, don’t correct”). This conversation should always come from a loving and supportive place. Offer to help them get professional help and support. Therapists can provide assessments to help identify and diagnose if depression is present and can provide ongoing depression counseling to help teens get through it.

Take Action: Ways to Help Your Depressed Teen

Spend Time Together

Facetime is critical, even if your teen doesn’t seem excited about it. Schedule family meals and activities, encourage them to spend time with friends. The things that used to be engaging may not seem worth doing to someone in a depression. Don’t give up, and even if it looks like your efforts are in vain, the time you are putting in proves to your loved one that they are worth it. Isolation can be one of the most difficult times for a depressed teen.

Get Active

Physical activity is a natural antidepressant. Experts recommend one hour of daily activity and more is better. Go for a walk with your loved one for both quality time and activity. Get them involved in activities or sports, set up an incentive plan with a reward for being active. Find a club, volunteering opportunity, or school team that your adolescent is willing to join. Anything that gets them out of the house and interacting with other people will help.

Eat Well

There is a strong connection between diet and mental health. People struggling with depressions often lose their appetite or binge on junk foods. Role-model healthy eating habits as a family. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and add healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and grass-fed butter. Sugar feeds depression, so cut down your child’s consumption of sweets as much as possible. Also, make sure they are getting enough of the following nutrients, as they support healthy and happy brain functioning:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Omega 3’s
  • Vitamin D

While these are the most commonly recommended supplemental nutrients, see a doctor or nutritionist for a personalized nutrition plan.

Substance Use and Depression

Depression often links as a co-occurring disorder to substance use or addiction. Alcohol and marijuana, the most commonly abused substances among teens, are often used as coping mechanisms with teens struggling with depression. While attempting to escape their depression by using, they are digging themselves deeper into the depression cycle, with the substance serving as a temporary mask.

Treatment for Teen Depression and Substance Use

If your son or daughter is struggling with depression and substance use, seeking out the appropriate support is vital. Our approach addresses all the pieces of the puzzle to build a strong foundation for lasting change. Call today to learn more about our programs and to verify insurance benefits.

Online Teen Depression Treatment Programs

Our Virtual IOP program offers the same programming we offer in person, all online - ideal for those who live too far to drive in, have transportation issues, or health concerns that make in-person treatment challenging.

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