Depression in teens can be easily disguised or ignored by symptoms that are commonly associated with the teenage experience, like low self-esteem and increased irritability. But keeping your eyes open to the internal and external struggles of the young people in your life can help you provide necessary help and support to teens experiencing mental health challenges or crises.
Depression is more common in teens than many think. According to a Mississippi Public Broadcasting report, 70% of youth believe anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers.
It’s not our intention to teach you how to diagnose depression in your peers or teens, but rather to offer you methods of supporting and advocating for those you know who may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.
Common Symptoms of Depression in Teens
The behaviors and emotions that you notice in teenagers may be an indication of a larger mental health challenge that they’re struggling with. The following are common symptoms of depression in teens.
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Expressions of irritability, anger and hostility
- Frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
- Problems and poor performance at school
- Engaging in risky behaviors, like substance use, binge drinking or unsafe sex
- Difficulties concentrating
- Unhealthy changes in their typical eating and sleeping habits
- Restlessness and agitation
- Indications of low self-worth or self-esteem
- Persistent fatigue and lack of energy
- Unexplained bodily aches or pains
- Discussion of death or suicide
It’s important to note that the symptoms of depression in adults are similar, but can vary from those of teens. In either case, someone won’t simply “snap out of it.”
Supporting a Teen With Depression
Whether you know of their diagnosis or have simply witnessed their struggle, there are ways to support and advocate for teens who are experiencing a mental health challenge like depression.
The most important action you can take to support a teen in your life who is experiencing symptoms of depression is to be there for them. Listen without judging and help them access the youth-friendly mental healthcare services necessary to diagnose, treat and begin their recovery process.
Encourage them to seek appropriate professional help and to use strategies like self-help. Reassure them and give them information and resources that can help them begin to heal and understand. A great way to learn this information and to get an action plan for helping young people dealing with mental health challenges or crises is to sign up for one of our upcoming Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings. See below for more information.
There are many things that can affect a teenager’s experience with a mental health disorder like depression. Trauma, stigma and culture can often affect their journey through recovery and well-being. Knowing about these obstacles or the possibility of these obstacles can help you to create a safe space for them to address their challenges.
Mental Health First Aid
Teen Health Mississippi offers a variety of training opportunities for those who interact with and serve teenagers. Our Youth Mental Health First Aid course outlines how to help an adolescent aged 12-18 who is experiencing a mental health challenge or who is in crisis. It introduces common mental health challenges for youth, including depression, and reviews typical adolescent development. You’ll then learn a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations, including advice on addressing obstacles to recovery like trauma, stigma and culture.
Outside of depression in teens, the course also covers anxiety, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD) and eating disorders.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people, including parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens.
Share Resources for Understanding, Treatment and Recovery
We provide a variety of resources that help with the treatment and recovery process and empower teens to get involved in advocating for mental health.
- Youth-Friendly Healthcare Finder: Enter your zip code to find mental healthcare providers near you who are accessible, affordable and experienced serving youth.
- Mind Elevation Project: The project brings youth influencers across Mississippi together to promote youth access to high-quality mental health and wellness and sexual and reproductive health.
- LinkedUp: This program connects students leaving high school with healthcare services as they go on to college or follow other paths after graduation.
We also recommend turning to resources like:
- The Mississippi Department of Mental Health Helpline: Access phone assistance for available resources and to find nearby mental health care services
- Mental Health Mississippi: A hub of information for all mental health services and resources available in Mississippi, including options for crisis situations
- Adolescent Depression: What Parents Can Do To Help: This article from HealthyChildren.org is a great resource for parents of teenagers with depression
- Mental Health America: Find information on mental health and getting help
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Provides a variety of resources on mental health and has a Mississippi chapter
- Mental Health First aid resources: An extensive list of trusted resources on mental health
Supporting a teen through depression is a complicated topic that can’t be comprehensively covered through a blog post. However, there are training opportunities and resources available to help you be the best advocate and support system you can be for the young people in your life.