Worried your teen may be experiencing depression?

Worried your teen may be experiencing depression?
Worried your teen may be experiencing depression?

Living through a pandemic isn’t easy on anyone. Whether it’s remote learning and drastically different opportunities for socializing, teens are facing major changes in their normal routines or plans for the future. As a result, you may be noticing changes in your teen’s mood and behavior.

Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, psychologist with Advocate Children’s Hospital, says the following signs may suggest your teen is experiencing depression.

  • Frequent sadness: Do they seem sad a lot or talk about sad feelings? Do they cry a lot?
  • Anger and irritability: Are they easily angered, or do they seem constantly annoyed?
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and guilt: Do they frequently make negative comments about themselves or about things never getting any better? Do they worry about making mistakes or “messing up?”
  • Fatigue: Do they seem tired or low energy all the time?
  • Restlessness: Do they seem unable to relax or sit still?
  • Withdrawal: Have they pulled back from activities, social events, family or friends? Are they spending more time alone?
  • Loss of interest: Do they no longer have fun doing activities they once enjoyed?
  • Changes to sleep or eating patterns: Have they started sleeping or eating a lot more or less than before? Have they recently gained or lost a lot of weight?
  • Trouble with concentration and decision making: Do they seem to have difficulty focusing or maintaining concentration? Do they struggle to remember things? Do they seem to have trouble making decisions?
  • Change in school performance: Has there been a recent drop in grades or school participation? Are they less motivated with schoolwork?
  • Physical complaints: Have they been reporting a lot of new physical complaints, like stomach aches or headaches, for which there is no known cause?
  • Suicidal or self-harming behavior: Have you noticed any signs of self-injury (e.g., cutting)? Do they talk about death, wishing they weren’t here, or wanting to die?

What should you do if you think your child is depressed? What if your teen notices these changes in a friend?

  • Talk with them: Ask questions about how they feel. Gently tell them what you have noticed and express support.
  • Be a good listener: Validate feelings and be careful not to shame or minimize how they feel.
  • For parents, help your child seek help by reaching out to a school counselor, pediatrician or mental health professional. Do not ignore any statements about suicide or self-harm. If your child is threatening to commit suicide, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.
  • For teens, encourage your friend to seek help. Help them to identify a trusted adult in whom they can confide—like a parent, counselor or teacher. Offer to go with them to talk. If your friend is talking about suicide or engaging in self-harming behaviors, tell an adult right away. Even if your friend might be mad at you for telling, you are being a good friend by taking action to keep them safe. If you are with someone who says they are going to commit suicide, call 911.

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