Depression in Teens can be a hard one to spot. How many times have you heard teachers or parents say their teenager is just going through a phase, they’re just a bit moody, and they will grow out of it? Just get on with it or pull yourself together can be common phrases used in schools or even by friends insinuating that depression is a lazy choice and one which they should snap out of.
These messages about what its like to be a teenager can make the teenager feel like they can’t talk about what’s worrying them, that its normal to feel depressed or that adults won’t take them seriously.
Another reason it can be difficult to figure out is because of how the word depressed can be overused. I had a bad day I’m so depressed. This is not about clinical depression but rather a way of describing a difficult day.
According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, 10% of children in Great Britain aged between 5 and 16 have a mental health problem, with 4% of children suffering from an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression.
The obvious signs to look out for are low mood where there doesn’t seem to be an outside cause i.e. stress or bereavement. If the teenager has lost interest in things they would normally enjoy and if this has been going on for a few weeks and is impacting their day to day activities i.e. school, socializing, clubs then it may be time to have a chat about whether you can support them to ask for help.
A teenager may go to their friends first if they’re worried about how they’re feeling, they will be testing reactions to see if they’re normal or if they should go somewhere for help. A friend’s reaction can be invaluable to making the first step to get help.
Parents can help by making sure there’s an open line of communication. If the depressed teen isn’t interacting much, you can still let them know that you’re concerned; that you would like to help and perhaps research the support out there together can help the depressed teenager know that they are not alone.
The first step would be to go to your GP. You could offer to attend with your teenager or to give them some space to discus their symptoms on their own. Ideally a GP will be able to do an initial assessment and will either offer medication and/or will write a letter referring your teenager to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) in your area. This means they will have to go on a waiting list to receive a talking therapy, most likely CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). The waiting time between initial assessment and accessing therapy can be frustrating for a teenager so it’s important to continue to discuss their needs with them and if you can afford it consider looking for private counseling. Talking about how they’re feelings can help them understand and normalize what’s going on for them and while we’d like them to be able to talk to parents, it’s developmentally natural to look outside of the family for support and advice at this age.
As much as possible it can be useful for your teenager to be involved in choosing their care. When feelings seem worrying or out of control it’s a sign of respect to include your son/daughter in decisions about their treatment. It can be easy to revert to parent mode and forget that your child is transitioning into a young adult and won’t want to be patronized at this uncomfortable stage. They will trust you more with what’s going on for them if they feel involved from he beginning.
It’s important to remember that there is life after depression. With the right support and treatment a teenager can come through this difficult time and integrate with the family. For more information or to book a session, email me at [email protected]
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