A Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression

teen depression

While it might be tempting to look back at our teen years with rose-coloured glasses, they’re not always so fun while we experience them. After all, they usually mean mood swings, self-doubt, rebellious behaviour, and a natural push for independence. 

It’s a critical period between elementary and secondary school that is generally the most challenging phase of a child’s life to date. As a parent, it can be equally difficult to navigate – and it gets even more complicated if you think your child is suffering from teen depression.


Is Teenage Depression Common?

Unfortunately, yes. About 1 in 5 teenagers experience depression, though only about 30% of those affected get treatment for it. There are contributing factors, too, like chronic diseases, minority status, family history of mental illness, substance abuse/addiction, or traumatic events. For young women the risk is twice as high as for young men.

“Teens think they are invincible, so when they feel psychological pain, they are more apt to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and the belief that they have no control over their lives.”
–Tony Jurich, professor of family studies and human services, Kansas State University


What Makes a Teenager Depressed?

There is no single cause of teen depression. Studies show that the brains of teenagers are different at a structural level than those of adults, so depressive factors can stem from multiple places and influence hormone levels and neurotransmitter effects:

  • Traumatic experiences in childhood (loss of a caregiver; physical, emotional, or sexual abuse)
  • Genetic factors – children with depressed parents are more likely to experience it themselves
  • Lack of emotional intelligence – teens without exposure to healthy emotional patterns can develop negative or depressive ones


Signs of Teenage Depression

So, how can you tell if your teen is having a bad few days, or suffering from depression? Look for ongoing patterns rather than single instances, and keep an eye out for signs like:

  • Frequent feelings of sadness or anger
  • Unusual irritability and hostility
  • Withdrawal from regular activities
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Changes in eating/sleeping habits
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Lack of motivation and concentration
  • Physical aches and pains, fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts

H3: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sometimes, the changing seasons in far north latitudes (like Calgary) can instill a sense of depression in people. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it may also affect your teen – especially if they also have difficult morning schedules that interfere with sleep. 


How to Deal with Teen Depression

A depressed teen may take on destructive and unhealthy behaviours as a method of coping with emotional distress. Without an effective outlet for their emotions, it’s common to find teenagers creating problems at school or resorting to habits like drug and alcohol abuse, technology addiction, running away, and other reckless behaviours.

As a parent, it may feel like watching your child suffer, and it’s in our nature to jump into action. But while it’s important to be supportive, try to respect their space and approach the situation with patience and love. Here are a few ways you can encourage them to open up to you and improve their wellbeing:

  • Exercise – physical activity helps build confidence and releases endorphins, the hormones responsible for euphoria or happiness.
  • Sleep – encourage your teen to get about 8-9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Diet – proper nutrition is an important factor in the balancing of moods.
  • Space – if they don’t want to talk about it, try again another day. Emotional expression is hard enough for teens, so adding new pressure can cause them to withdraw further.
  • Treatment – talk to your teen about treatment options like counselling or medication. Consult a doctor to learn what’s best for their health.
  • Empathy – above all, listen to your teen. Be available for them when they’re ready to talk and accentuate the positive aspects in their lives.


So… Does Teenage Depression Get Better?

Yes, it can – but it takes time, treatment, and patience.

Whether your teen is dealing with clinical depression or is simply wading through the challenges of becoming a young adult, it’s important that they are guided with positive coping mechanisms. It’s normal for teens to shy away from opening up to their parents about their emotions, so recommending that your teen visit a counsellor is often a positive solution.

At Your Counselling, we provide both family therapy and individual therapy for teens struggling with depression all across Calgary. We even have online counselling sessions, which can put anxious teens even more at ease as we get to know each other.

Give us a call or send a message to discuss your concerns and we’ll provide a free consultation. Then you can speak with your child about their options, and you’ll be on the road to better emotional health sooner than you think.

To learn more on this topic, click over to our thorough blog titled Depression: Everything You Want To Know.