Depression is one of the most serious mental illnesses a person can develop. Left undiagnosed and untreated, it could lead to self-harm, a dependence on unhealthy coping methods, or even suicidal tendencies. It’s a condition that can affect people of all ages, including your teenage children.
In the United States, one out of seven children aged two to eight years had been diagnosed with a mental disorder, with white males aged six to eight years more likely. Meanwhile around two percent of children between the ages of three to 17 years old have been diagnosed with depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it’s a small number, we can’t deny that there are thousands out there left undiagnosed or untreated.
If you are a parent who suspects your child has depression or your child is currently seeking treatment for depression, your child will need your help more than ever. It’s important to spot early signs of depression and provide support as they undergo treatment to overcome depression.
Signs to Watch Out
It may be difficult to watch out for mental illness symptoms, but if you know your child and have a strong relationship with them, you might be able to tell when something isn’t right with your child.
Observe their daily patterns. Are they sleeping, eating, or working properly? Taking care of yourself is a sign that you are fine. If you find that your child is neglecting their studies, safety, or has lost interest inactivities they used to enjoy, this might be a sign of depression or mental illness.
However, there are those with depression who remain undiagnosed because they continue to function normally and hide their conditions. If your child appears normal but is acting differently, crying for no reason, becoming more aggressive,or has different sleeping patterns, it could be a normal part of their life. but it could also be a sign of underlying mental turmoil.
Depression could lead to self-harm, which could lead to suicidal tendencies. It’s important for you to watch out for these suicidal tendencies because they are likely a cry for help. These signs include:
- Suicide jokes
- Talking about disappearing or hopelessness
- Romanticizing dying
- Giving away treasured possessions
- Acting like they’re going to see their friends and family for the last time
In case of suicidal warnings, you will need to take immediate action.
Listen to Your Child (Or Ask)
When a teenager has depression, it almost always includes visible signs. Once you see it, don’t hesitate to ask or lend an ear. They need someone to show they care, and who better to care than their own parents?
Chances are, your child is old enough to understand self-harm and suicide. Don’t be afraid and think that talking about these topics could put the idea in their head and encourage them to do it. If they have depression, the idea may already be in their head. Having someone show they care can prevent it.
What Causes Depression?
Your brain is responsible for the way you feel certain emotions. When you’re happy, for example, your brain produces chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. However, a chemical imbalance or insufficient chemical in the system could trigger depression.
Social& Emotional Situations
Your teenager is subjected to plenty of social situations in their school, extra-curriculars, and other environments they are a part of. Contrary to what they might think, they are young, and one bad day can be enough to make it seem like the end of the world. However, no matter how small their reasons are, you shouldn’t be the parent that goes on invalidating their emotions. This sadness can build-up and develop into depression.
What NOT to Do as a Parent
As a parent, the best thing you can do is provide support. That’s all you really can do. It’s actually much harder explaining to some parents what NOT to do when handling their depressed teenager.
When your teenager opens up to you, don’t think that dissuading their feelings through invalidation is an effective way to curb their depression. Never let your child feel like they’re not allowed to be depressed or show negative emotions.
Telling them things such as “your life is too good to be depressed” or “others have it worse” or “just suck it up” is not going to help. In fact, you’re suggesting a harmful idea that tells them they are not allowed to feel negative emotions. Instead, they will see what they are feeling as bad orsomething they need to hide from you, making it harder to determine if they have depression.
If they come to you with signs of depression, never make them feel that they have to bottle up their true emotions around you.As a parent, you want nothing more than to see your children happy all the time but forcing them to put on a smile all the time causes them to hide their true emotions, thereby setting up a wall between you and what they really feel.
Don’t Undermine Their Reasons
I remember an incident when I was 13. I had a major project in school and, during the days leading up to the final submission, seriously considered suicide to escape the stress I endured during that time. Twenty years later, I rarely ever think back to because it affected very little of my life and, looking back, I would have missed out on so much if I died because of that.
You might have also experienced the same thing: a failed exam or a broken heart that left you devastatedbut, as time passed, realized it wasn’t as big of a deal as you originally thought. Your child may come to you depressed because of a similar reason, but you must never try to undermine their reason and tell them how insignificant it will be.
Remember, your child has been living for less than two decades. They haven’t had enough time to comprehend how their problem will play out 40 years from now, so their problem, to them, matters. And it should.
Don’t Pressure Them for a Reason
In other cases, when they come to you, they might not have a reason at all. Don’t try to invalidate their depression because they can’t give you a concrete answer why they feel depressed.Often, depression is triggered by an event, but it’s brain chemistry that allows them to feel a certain way. Low dopamine levels are not their fault and requires medical and psychiatric attention, so don’t use their lack of an explanation to negate their feelings.
Don’t Wait for It to Get Worse
Some parents see the signs of a problem but think it’s a phase that will wear eventually wear out. The thing about depression, though, is that it will eventually build up, which could lead to self-harm on your child or lasting consequences such as failing grades and isolation from your child’s friends.
Treatment and Road to Recovery
Once you provide your teen with treatment, the job doesn’t end there. They will need your support every step on the way as they attempt to get their life back on track. It’s important you remain sympatheticto their condition and reassure them that it isn’t their fault. Like any chronic illness, you can’t expect the healing process to happen overnight; it’s a long treatment, one where they will need strong support from friends and family on their side.
Handling their School and Social Life
Don’t take their depression as a sign to isolate them from their school, their friends, or other factors they used to enjoy. If your child’s friends are helpful and supportive to their mental health, make sure they provide the right support system and help your child recover.
For your child’s school, don’t see it as a trigger for depression. You can modify their school’s setting such as what they expect to achieve, what they hope to gain, and what kind of environment they surround themselves with. Coordinate with your child’s teachers and find a way to ease your child from staying in an environment where they feel too pressured.
As a parent, you want to avoid the physical and mental risks of depression on your children. Unfortunately, there are many triggers and factors that could contribute to your teenager developing depression. In this case, the best thing you can do is try to detect depression before it becomes serious, provide enough support, and get them on the road to recovery.