When you think of the pressures that teenagers face–both academic and personal, it’s not surprising that some of them fall by the wayside and turn depressed. Some of the early sign of teen depression include changes at puberty, irritability and anger, hopelessness and despondency, easily moved to tears, being reclusive and their quest for their own identity and their place in society.
With their minds in a turmoil and uncertainty all around them, parents often find it difficult to tell whether their children are going through the normal pangs of growth or whether what they see are signs of depression in teens. If you’re the parent of a teenager, there’s a lot that you too might undergo with a teenager in the house, but you can help him out of his growing moodiness in these ways:
Early Signs of Teenage Depression:
- Is your teen irritable and easily angered?
- Listen to him, don’t preach
- Send him out to be with his friends
- Ensure that he sleeps and exercises enough
- Talk frankly with him each day
Signs and symptoms of teenage depression:
Teenagers are at a very vulnerable age when they can’t decide for themselves but need the assistance of their elders–whether parents, teachers, coaches or siblings. When a teenager goes through depression, it’s a new experience, so you can understand how difficult it is for him to grapple with a new condition. As a parent, you might find it difficult to spot the signs and symptoms of depression in your child and know what to do if you see them. So, first, let’s spot the symptoms of this disease and then we’ll move on to treating it.
- Irritability and anger
- Hopelessness and despondency
- Easily moved to tears
- Being reclusive
- Losing interest in academics, sports and other activities
- Poor academic performance
- Altered sleeping pattern and eating habits
- Feeling worthless
- Low in enthusiasm and de-motivated
- Easily tired
- Lack of concentration
- Complaints of aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts
Suicide warning signs–what to look out for
Apart from the above, your depressed teenager might also display suicidal tendencies. You can be sure that your teenager has definitely got suicidal tendencies, if he says or does some or all of the following:
- Speaks half jokingly about wanting to commit suicide
- Making statements like, “I wish I was dead,” “This is it–it’s the end for me.”
- Romanticizing death
- Making death the central idea of his stories and poems
- Behaving intentionally recklessly and bringing physical injury to himself
- Giving away all that’s precious to him
- Wishing his family and friends goodbye, as if he’s never going to see them again
- Searching for pills or other ways of killing himself
How to help your teen out of depression?
Rather than go to pieces yourself about your depressed teenager, you can take steps to get him out of this state. Here are some ways out:
Encourage him to speak to you: It’s not uncommon for teenagers to be moody and reclusive at times. Often, this is due to hormonal changes that highlight the teen years. At this time of their lives, they have yet to develop their communication skills, making it very difficult for them to open up about their reasons for being depressed.
Being worried about your child necessitates your encouraging him to speak about what’s bothering him. It’s best to approach the problem in an indirect manner because if you ask him directly what’s up, it might make him back off. Let him know you’re there for him to speak to whenever he wants an ear and when it happens, give him a listening ear without being judgmental.
Share a meal when you can: Spending time with your depressed teenager over a meal can be a great way of bonding with him. If he still doesn’t open up and you get worried about his silence, let him know that. This will make him realize that you care for him and want to ease him out of his difficulty. Lastly, let him know that if he prefers, he could talk to someone else. Suggest a few names of people in the family or your friends’ circle who he would like to confide in. Else, he could speak to your family doctor.
Allow him to choose whom to ask for help: By letting him decide who he wants to confide his problem to, you subtly inform him that you still trust his judgment. That’s a great step forward in your relationship. Let him choose from a few names you suggest and make him decide on any one.
Encourage him to have fun and enjoy himself with friends and family: Depressed individuals usually withdraw from friends and family and are not interested in any of the activities they once loved pursuing. To get him out of this state, you need to get him back into the family fold and within his friends’ circle.
One way of doing this is to eat together and involve your teen in a game night every week. Let him go over to his friends’ homes to spend the night there. Or, if he was involved in hobbies that gave him a special identity, redirect his steps there once more. He will regain his self-confidence through this and feel more confident.
Fill up his life with love, comfort and physical contact: Depressed teens usually feel worthless, so it is up to you as his parent to fill up his life with love, even if he is depressed. Don’t blame your child for being depressed and impress upon him that he hasn’t done anything wrong. Tell him that you want to help him because you’re concerned about him and that with his support, you will do all it takes to have him recover from this. Hug him often, kiss him and speak to him reassuringly so that he knows you’re sincere about what you say.
Stay close to your teenager as he grapples with depression and be his support through this period. Once he’s over it, you’ll find your happy teenager again.