Depression among children and adolescents is a reality. However, unfortunately, most of the times when a teenager is showing signs of depression, we as parents, teachers and adults, just put it down to the teen being moody or the pubertal hormones taking control. In the context of increasing suicide attempts by people in the age group of 15-24, it is time to wake up and accept that teen depression is very much a part of the world we are living in right now and what’s more, it can happen to anyone anytime.
Just like adults, teens face a lot of pressures from the world around them. They have a lot of issues – changes that puberty brings, discovering their identity and so on. Teenagers are also overwhelmed with the choices that they have to make. Although, not very easy to differentiate between mood swings and depression in teens, it is important that extreme mood changes in your teen not be ignored. Depression is a real problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s lives.
If you have an adolescent in your life, it is imperative that you become familiar with what teen depression is like. Unlike adults, teens with depression may not necessarily appear sad; irritability, anger and agitation are more common. Some other prominent early signs of depression in teens are: tearfulness or frequent crying; withdrawal from friends, family, and academics; changes in eating and sleeping habits; feelings of worthlessness and guilt; fatigue or lack of energy; thoughts of suicide or death; among others.
As I have already mentioned several times in most of my previous blogs as well, the key to helping your teen with depression is not ignoring his/her problems. It is crucial that as a parent or caregiver you pay attention to his/her concerns, listening, being gentle and empathetic and acknowledging feelings. An adolescent with depression often secludes himself/herself from friends and family. In such a scenario it is essential to encourage social connections. Face to face conversations with your teen sans the noise of smart phones and TV, social groups and activities, and engaging in volunteer work together, will help eliminate social isolation. Physical health should be prioritized at all times and even more so when signs of depression are being noticed. Involve your teen in physical routines or exercises – a run under the open skies will help.
Some moodiness is part of growing up but extreme or persistent changes in personality, mood, and/or behaviour are indicative of a deeper problem. If you are not sure whether your child is experiencing depression or is just experiencing mood swings, it is best to seek professional help from a mental health professional.