DAD.info
Free online course for separated parents
Forum - Ask questions. Get answers.
Free online course for separated parents
DAD.info | Fatherhood | Being Dad | Teenage depression: how to spot the signs and help

Teenage depression: how to spot the signs and help

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

The number of young people struggling with mental health problems is higher than ever- it is now estimated that 1 in 6 young people have a mental health issue. Teenage depression affects many young people each year.

As we journey through life, it’s normal to find some time periods difficult and for our mood to be lower. However, during a period of depression the low feelings can be completely overwhelming. Day to day life can become difficult to deal with, and it can seem that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Watching your child struggle with a depression can be incredibly worrying, however there are steps you can take to understand and help.

What are the causes of depression in teenagers?

There is no hard and fast rule for what causes depression in young people, but it can be a mixture of:

  • chemical imbalances in the brain
  • genetics
  • abuse
  • trauma
  • stress
  • bullying.

What are the signs and symptoms of teenage depression?

Depression will show up differently in different people, but look for signs of the following:

  • social withdrawal
  • difficulty concentrating
  • anger or irritability
  • sleeping more or less than they normally would
  • tiredness or low energy
  • losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • being tearful or sad
  • criticising themselves
  • having less appetite or eating more
  • an urge/ wish to self harm
  • suicidal thoughts.

How can you support a teenager with depression?

Naturally you may be concerned about your child if you suspect they are feeling depressed. Your care and support can be far more important and instrumental in their recovery than you might imagine. Here are some great ways to help support them:

Try to talk to them about what’s happening

This can seem difficult, but a good starting point is asking how they are and mentioning that you’ve noticed they don’t seem very happy. Ask if they want to talk about what’s going on, or how you can support them. If they are reluctant to talk at first, tell them that you are there whenever they want to talk, or if they want to talk to someone else, that’s ok too.

If and when they start to open up, try to avoid asking too many questions at once, come up with ways to ‘fix’ the problem or dismiss their feelings. The most important factor is listening and being there. You can reassure them that you’re always there for them by saying something like ‘I love you and we will get through this together.’

Try to pinpoint what is causing their low mood

While talking together, aim to find what’s causing them difficulty. It might be problems with friends, bullying, school pressures, a family problem, or parental separation. Look to find ways that their life can be made easier and help put those changes in place.

Doing more of what they love= more happiness

During depression it can seem like there’s nothing worth doing, but little moments of enjoyment can make a big difference. Going to the coffee shop to get a hot chocolate, spending time with a pet, or watching a funny film can all help lift their overall mood slightly. Help them consider all of the activities that bring them joy and bring some of that joy in every day. Even getting out of the house to go for a walk with you can help, or trying out new hobbies like baking or drawing.

The power of gratitude

Practising gratitude is proven to lower depression greatly, and it’s such a simple and easy activity to do. Encourage your child to list whatever they’re grateful for every day- from tiny things like their favourite snack to the people they love and everything in between. They might wish to keep a notebook to write their list in every day, or talk about it with you.

Daily routines are helpful

Depression can cause routines to go out of the window and the sufferer to reduce their self-care. Encourage getting up at the same time, showering, exercising, drinking water and eating well. You may wish to consider reducing how much screen time they have during this period and encourage more time spent together too.

A plan for difficult times

When your child is going through a tough day it can help to have some tried and trusted ways to feel better on hand. One strategy is making a self-soothe box. They might also like to create a ‘feelgood’ playlist of happy or relaxing songs, or do an activity they enjoy. Your child can also keep in mind the people around them they can turn to, or the services that can help (see suggestions below).

‘This too shall pass’

As the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’. Difficult times don’t last forever, and there will be brighter days. Reminding your child of this and telling them about how you overcame rough patches in your own life can help.

If you suspect your child may be in danger

Call 999 or go to A&E immediately if your child has injured themselves or you don’t feel you can keep them safe.

If you feel they require urgent mental health assistance, take a look at this NHS helpline finder.

Should I contact our GP?

If your child doesn’t seem to be feeling any better or you are concerned, contact your GP for help and advice. If necessary they may recommend a referral to counselling or children’s mental health services.

Should I notify the school that my child is unwell?

It can help to notify your child’s school that they are going through depression. You should tell your child that you are doing this and why, as they may not wish for their personal situation to be shared. The school may be able to provide pastoral care, a buddy, or even counselling on-site. If your child is at university, they should also be able to provide support.

Helpful contacts

  • Your child can text the word SHOUT to 85258. Trained volunteers can then engage your child in a supportive conversation via text.
  • The Young Minds website provides in-depth information for both young people and parents about mental health concerns.

Want to chat to other dads? Join our friendly forum.

Related entries

Teenage moods: why they have them, and how to deal with them

Teenage moods: why they have them, and how to deal with them

Remember when your kid was all cute and cuddly? You'd drop them off at primary school, and get a lovely kiss goodbye and a 'bye daddy'. It can be hard to recognise that bouncy little child being the same person as the grumpy teenager you live with today. Teenage moods...

8+ habits that will improve your mental health

8+ habits that will improve your mental health

It's Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, but we believe you should focus on your mental health every day. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50, and even if you don't feel low now, there are ways you can optimise your every day mental health to help prevent...

County lines: what is it and how can you protect your child?

County lines: what is it and how can you protect your child?

You may have heard the term 'county lines'- it describes criminal activity involving the exploitation of children. Sadly many thousands of young people become embroiled in county lines every year. Here's a guide to what you need to know and how to protect your child:...

Latest entries

Teenage moods: why they have them, and how to deal with them

Teenage moods: why they have them, and how to deal with them

Remember when your kid was all cute and cuddly? You'd drop them off at primary school, and get a lovely kiss goodbye and a 'bye daddy'. It can be hard to recognise that bouncy little child being the same person as the grumpy teenager you live with today. Teenage moods...

8+ habits that will improve your mental health

8+ habits that will improve your mental health

It's Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, but we believe you should focus on your mental health every day. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50, and even if you don't feel low now, there are ways you can optimise your every day mental health to help prevent...

She’s pregnant and seems to hate me!

She’s pregnant and seems to hate me!

So your wife is pregnant, and divorce is on the cards already? Do you feel you can't do anything right, she hates you and you think this is the end of the relationship? Rest assured, this is surprisingly common. Just google the words "my wife is pregnant and she hates...

Pin It on Pinterest