How to Help Your Depressed Teenager

Steps to Get Your Teen Help

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Depressed teens often experience significant emotional and sometimes physical pain, but frequently don't have any idea what to do to feel better. Parents are usually in the best position to take charge in getting initial help for a depressed teen. Here's how to know when to seek professional help.

When to Seek Professional Help for a Depressed Teen

Identifying depression in teens can be difficult because it doesn’t necessarily show up in all aspects of a teen's life and can be episodic, appearing to come and go. But depression in teens is often serious. It is a mistake to wait and hope depression will get better on its own because it usually doesn't. Untreated depression can lead to other serious problems, such as substance abuse, behavior problems and difficulty overcoming major illnesses.

So when is the right time to seek help for possible depression in a teen? One guideline to use is this: If your teen has significant changes in mood, behavior or personality that last more than a few weeks, it's a good idea to seek professional help to try to determine the reason behind these changes. 

It may not be depression, but any long-term changes in your teen's functioning suggest a serious problem that needs to be identified and addressed. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when the possibility of teen depression exists, as it may continue to worsen and can even lead to suicide.

Getting Your Teen Evaluated

The first step in helping a teen with symptoms of depression is a thorough evaluation by a professional. This crucial step helps provide valuable information about whether your teen suffers from depression, the severity of the problem and what treatment options are likely to be the most effective.

Depending on the available resources and how long it takes to set up an initial appointment, schedule an assessment for your teen with your medical doctor or a mental health professional who specializes in helping teenagers.

Evaluation Options for Your Teen

  • A medical doctor can order blood tests, review family history, evaluate current medications, sleep patterns and diet in an effort to determine if there is a physical cause for the depression. 
  • An individual therapist specializing in treating teens can evaluate the symptoms based on talking to the teen and family members. This information helps point the way to make specific recommendations for next steps that are likely to be beneficial to your teen. 
  • psychological evaluation or psychological testing, completed by a psychologist over several sessions provides extensive information about the severity and nature of the symptoms, contributing factors, and the possible presence of suicidal ideation. This option is best suited for cases where the diagnosis is unclear. 

Information revealed about your teen's symptoms in the evaluation plus the recommendations of the professional who administers it, will make it easier to determine the next steps to take.

Treatments for Teen Depression

Teen depression is treatable with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Your mental health professional will help you and your teen decide on an individual treatment plan. If your teen is suicidal, he may need to be hospitalized. 

How You Can Help

If your teen is diagnosed with depression, there are ways you can be supportive. Educate yourself about depression so you can have a better idea of what your teen is going through. Be available to listen and encourage your teen to talk to you about anything that might be bothering her. Support your teen's daily routines, such as taking medications and eating healthy, and make sure your home is a safe, comforting place.

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Article Sources

  • "Helping Your Teen With Depression." U.S. National Library of Medicine (2014)