9 Ways You Can Help Your Teen with Depression

Guest Blog by Dr. Jeff Nalin

Did you know there are studies that indicate an average of one in every five US teenagers are likely to experience depression annually?

There’s evidence that the incidence of depression in teenagers is increasing over time.

While there are treatments available, there’s much that parents and other loved ones can do to support a teen who is suffering with mild to moderate depression.

If someone you love is diagnosed with depression, it’s important to understand there are ways you can help.

You can always seek information from a mental health professional who is familiar with the specifics of what your teen is experiencing.


But these nine suggestions will work well in many cases:

1. No Pretending: Talk About It

This sounds easy, but it can be one of the most difficult things you and your teen will ever do. Frank discussions about what’s happening is important for both of you.

Your teen needs to verbalize what he or she is experiencing. You need to hear it so that it’s possible to understand a little better.

Listen closely to what your teen has to say. Feel free to ask questions that help clarify anything that seems to be a little fuzzy to you.

Remember that your talks are not about assigning responsibility or even providing advice at this stage.

You are attempting to gather facts so it’s easier to understand the gravity of what’s happening. Even if your teen doesn’t acknowledge it right now, your willingness to listen is appreciated.

2. Recognize the Need for Your Teen to Have Quiet Time

There will be times when your teen needs quiet time instead of conversation. Depression is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Honor the need to take a nap or use television or music as a way to escape from things for a short time. There will be time to talk later.

It’s a good idea to keep track of how much quiet time your teen seems to need. If it seems to be increasing, that’s something you should note and pass on to whomever is involved in the treatment process.

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3. A Physical Checkup Is In Order

Depression in teenagers can sometimes be caused or strengthened because of some undiagnosed physical condition.

Something as simple as a vitamin D3 deficiency could be contributing to the depression.

The same is true if the thyroid gland is not functioning properly.

Arrange for your teen to undergo a complete physical checkup, complete with blood work.

Identifying physical issues and treating them may ultimately ease the depression and make it easier to overcome.

4. Empathy Helps Your Teen Feel Less Alone

While you may be tempted to say that you know exactly how your teen feels, the fact is that you really don’t fully grasp the situation.

Even if you struggled with depression at some point in your life, your experiences were likely a little different in several ways.

Instead of trying to identify with your teen’s depression, acknowledge what’s happening and that you can understand some but not all of what’s going on.

That honesty will likely help your teen to see you as more of an ally.

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5. Educate Yourself

If you’re like the average person, you only know so much about depression. When it comes to teenage depression, your bank of knowledge is even more limited. Now is the time for you to educate yourself.

That means looking for resources that provide general information as well as ideas on how to support a loved one suffering with this condition.

Knowing more allows you to identify and utilize a wider range of approaches that support your teen’s efforts to get well. You can also check lifeasmama.com for more tips of being a good parent.

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6. Acknowledge That There’s No Easy Fix

As much as you would like to reassure your teen that something as simple as a few therapy sessions and an antidepressant will make things right, resist that urge.

Acknowledge that there are wonderful treatments available and that finding the right combination will take time.

Setting reasonable expectations that don’t include a quick fix will help your teen to not despair if it takes months or maybe longer to move past the depression.

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7. Help Your Teen Connect With Local Resources

You already know that your teen needs access to a family doctor and a therapist.

What other resources are available? 

Both medical professionals can provide information on local resources like support groups, weekend retreats, group therapy, and other approaches that may be right for your teen.

Discuss all of these options with your teen.

Many of them will be most effective when the patient is receptive to those activities and approaches them with an open mind.

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8. Don’t Forget About Online Resources

There’s also a wealth of online resources about depression in general. You can also find resources that are focused on teenage depression.

They range from study guides, structured activities that your teen can do alone or with a small group, and even social media groups that provide the chance to interact with other teens who are facing similar challenges.

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9. Be Aware of Emerging or Changing Symptoms

Part of your education is learning the most common symptoms associated with teen depression.

You also will need to learn how to determine if any of those symptoms worsen or if they’re joined by more symptoms.

For example, if your teen becomes increasingly irritable or if there appears to be more periods where mood swings swiftly move from being happy to feeling miserable, that’s something the two of you want to share with the therapist.

Remember that love and authenticity are two things that your teen needs from you right now.

There will be times when exhibiting love will be difficult, especially if your depressed teen is easily angered or lashing out in despair.

Whatever you do, make it clear that you love your teen no matter what and that will not change.

With the help of therapy, medication, nutrition and general medical care, your support will help your teen move through this stage and once again be able to enjoy life.

Dr Jeff Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA-approved Clinical Psychology programme, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA-approved psychology internship programme. 

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