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Here are tools to find a healthcare provider familiar with treatment options:
- Psychologist Locatorexternal icon, a service of the American Psychological Association Practice Organization.
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finderexternal icon, a research tool by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry .
- Find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapistexternal icon, a search tool by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
- If you need help finding treatment facilities, visit MentalHealth.govexternal icon.
And Above All Please Remember That Depression Is Not A Choice
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what Im watching, what Im reading, Black Agate, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at . As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, Im so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
But Thats Not How Depression Works
Ive been on both sides of mental illness, as the loved one of someone who is struggling and as the person who is struggling. As hard as it feels to be in your shoes, trust me when I say that it is far worse to be the one with depression.
My experience with depression has been lifelong. I struggled with it from the age of seven. It wasnt until I was in my mid-30s that I really stabilized. I am not telling you this to scare you or say that its going to take another decade or longer for her to get some relief. I am telling you this because depression is not a one and done illness. And make no make no mistake it is an illness.
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Coping With Suicidal Thoughts
If your negative feelings caused by depression become so overwhelming that you cant see any solution besides harming yourself or others, you need to get help right away. Asking for help when youre in the midst of such strong emotions can be really difficult, but its vital you reach out to someone you trusta friend, family member, or teacher, for example. If you dont feel that you have anyone to talk to, or think that talking to a stranger might be easier, . Youll be able to speak in confidence to someone who understands what youre going through and can help you deal with your feelings.
Whatever your situation, it takes real courage to face death and step back from the brink. You can use that courage to help you keep going and overcome depression.
There is ALWAYS another solution, even if you cant see it right now. Many people who have survived a suicide attempt say that they did it because they mistakenly felt there was no other solution to a problem they were experiencing. At the time, they couldnt see another way out, but in truth, they didnt really want to die. Remember that no matter how badly you feel, these emotions will pass.
Having thoughts of hurting yourself or others does not make you a bad person. Depression can make you think and feel things that are out of character. No one should judge you or condemn you for these feelings if you are brave enough to talk about them.
If youre thinking about suicide
How Can I Help My Teenager
If you’re worried about your teenager and they refuse to talk to you, you may need to open up other channels of communication.
Avoid persistent direct questioning as this can make them feel threatened.
Try these tips to encourage your teenager to open up if there is a problem:
- be honest and explain that you’re worried that they’re going through something difficult
- point them towards websites or helplines that can give them information on depression, drugs and self-harm so they can find out the facts themselves
- do not blame yourself for any problems they’re having and try not to take it personally this will not help the situation
- tell them you’ll be there for them when they do want to talk
- let them choose where to go for help, which may be a GP, a family friend or school counsellor
- help your teenager think for themselves encourage them to think through the pros and cons of their behaviour, remind them what theyre good at and what you like about them, and help them think critically about what they see and hear
For more helpful tips, see Talking to your teenager.
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How Can I Help My Adult Child With Depression
My adult daughter is incredibly gifted , but she has pretty serious depression. The sleeps-all-day, forgets-to-eat kind. It took her an extra two years to graduate from college because she kept turning assignments in late. Once she got her engineering degree, everyone thought shed get a job easily, but she bombed all her interviews. Eventually she ended up working as a waitress.
Shes been in therapy for a year now, and her more serious symptoms have improved. My daughter says she wants to quit her job and go to graduate school. However, she keeps procrastinating on applications and missing deadlines. When I try to ask about her progress, she clams up and shuts me out.
I know shes an adult now. I cant do everything for her. But I would hate to see my daughters depression sabotage her career. All she needs is a little support for her condition.
Should I take a more active role in guiding my child? Or is my daughters procrastination a sign shes not actually ready for graduate school? I want her to reach her full potential, but I dont want to push her into a situation she cant handle. Not an Empty Nester Yet
Dear Not an Empty Nester,
If she owns her choices and the results of those choices, good or bad, she will move into adulthood on better footing.
Best of luck,
Teenage Depression: Things To Try At Home
If your child is suffering from depression, there are important things you can do to help in your everyday family life.
Physical health and wellbeing
- Encourage your child to make healthy food and drink choices. Make sure you have a variety of healthy foods in the cupboard and fridge, and offer tasty and nutritious options at meals.
- Get your child to do some regular physical activity. Staying physically active can help to improve your childs mental health. It might be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk every day to start with.
- Encourage your child to get enough sleep. If your child is having trouble sleeping, try not to let them nap during the day regardless of how tired they feel. Help your child make time for relaxing activities before bedtime and encourage your child to avoid screen time in the hour before bed.
- If you can, make sure your child avoids alcohol and other drugs. Using these to dull sadness or pain can make your childs problems worse.
Relationships and feelings
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Tip : Adopt Healthy Habits
Making healthy lifestyle choices can do wonders for your mood. Things like eating right, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep have been shown to make a huge difference when it comes to depression.
Get moving! Ever heard of a runners high? You actually get a rush of endorphins from exercising, which makes you feel instantly happier. Physical activity can be as effective as medications or therapy for depression, so get involved in sports, ride your bike, or take a dance class. Any activity helps! If youre not feeling up to much, start with a short daily walk, and build from there.
Be smart about what you eat. An unhealthy diet can make you feel sluggish and tired, which worsens depression symptoms. Junk food, refined carbs, and sugary snacks are the worst culprits! They may give you a quick boost, but theyll leave you feeling worse in the long run. Make sure youre feeding your mind with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Talk to your parents, doctor, or school nurse about how to ensure your diet is adequately nutritious.
Aim for eight hours of sleep each night. Feeling depressed as a teenager typically disrupts your sleep. Whether youre sleeping too little or too much, your mood will suffer. But you can get on a better sleep schedule
Tip : Make Physical Health A Priority
Physical and mental health are inextricably connected. Depression is exacerbated by inactivity, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition. Unfortunately, teens are known for their unhealthy habits: staying up late, eating junk food, and spending hours on their phones and devices. But as a parent, you can combat these behaviors by establishing a healthy, supportive home environment.
Get your teen moving!Exercise is absolutely essential to mental health, so get your teen activewhatever it takes. Ideally, teens should be getting at least an hour of physical activity a day, but it neednt be boring or miserable. Think outside the box: walking the dog, dancing, shooting hoops, going for a hike, riding bikes, skateboardingas long as theyre moving, its beneficial.
Set limits on screen time. Teens often go online to escape their problems, but when screen time goes up, physical activity and face time with friends goes down. Both are a recipe for worsening symptoms. Gently encourage your teen to take an occasional vacation from their devices or engage in family activities that dont involve screen time. You can also set an example by reducing your own time spent online.
Encourage plenty of sleep.Teens need more sleep than adults to function optimallyup to 9-10 hours per night. Make sure your teen isnt staying up until all hours at the expense of much-needed, mood-supporting rest.
Also Check: Is God Punishing Me With Depression
Why Am I Depressed
Despite what you may have been told, depression is not simply caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be cured with medication. Rather, depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Since the teenage years can be a time of great turmoil and uncertainty, youre likely facing a host of pressures that could contribute to your depression symptoms. These can range from hormonal changes to problems at home or school or questions about who you are and where you fit in.
As a teen, youre more likely to suffer from depression if you have a family history of depression or have experienced early childhood trauma, such as the loss of a parent or physical or emotional abuse.
Teen Depression Ages 13
What is Teen Depression?
- loss of interest in activities, apathy
- reduced pleasure in daily activities
- inability to enjoy activities which used to be sources of pleasure
- change in appetite, usually a loss of appetite but sometimes an increase
- change in weight
- persistent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- feelings of worthlessness, sadness, or self-hatred
- excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
- acting-out behavior
- thoughts about suicide or obsessive fears or worries about death
- plans to commit suicide or actual suicide attempt
- excessively irresponsible behavior pattern
If these symptoms persist for at least two weeks and cause significant distress or difficulty functioning, treatment should be sought.
Teenage suicide is associated with depression as well as many other factors. Depression frequently interferes with school performance and interpersonal relationships. Teens with depression often have other psychiatric problems, such as anxiety disorders. Depression is also commonly associated with violence and reckless behavior. Drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse frequently coexist with depression. Adolescents with additional psychiatric problems usually require longer and more intensive treatment.
- withdrawal, with urge to be alone, isolation
- giving most cherished possessions to others
NEVER IGNORE A SUICIDE THREAT OR ATTEMPT!
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What Can Parents Do To Alleviate Teen Depression
Parenting teens can be very challenging. There are, though, some effective parenting and communication techniques you can use to help lower the stress level for your teenager:
- When disciplining your teen, replace shame and punishment with positive reinforcement for good behavior. Shame and punishment can make an adolescent feel worthless and inadequate.
- Allow your teenager to make mistakes. Overprotecting or making decisions for teens can be perceived as a lack of faith in their abilities. This can make them feel less confident.
- Give your teen breathing room. Don’t expect teens to do exactly as you say all of the time.
- Do not force your teen down a path you wanted to follow. Avoid trying to relive your youth through your teen’s activities and experiences.
- If you suspect that your teen is depressed, take the time to listen to their concerns. Even if you don’t think the problem is of real concern, remember that it may feel very real to someone who is growing up.
- Keep the lines of communication open, even if your teen seems to want to withdraw.
- Try to avoid telling your teen what to do. Instead, listen closely and you may discover more about the issues causing the problems.
- If there is a close friend or family member your teen is close to and comfortable with, you might suggest your teen talk with this person about their concerns.
If you feel overwhelmed or unable to reach your teen, or if you continue to be concerned, seek help from a qualified health care professional.
When Its Time For Immediate Help
Not everyone with depression thinks about suicide. Many people who do have suicidal thoughts never make a plan or attempt suicide. That said, youll want to take any mention of suicide seriously.
Its time to get professional support right away if you notice any of the following signs in your child:
- writing stories or poems about dying
- exhibiting risk-taking behavior, including substance or alcohol use
- talking about dying or wanting a way out of their pain
- becoming more withdrawn from others
- saying others would be better off without them
- giving away personal possessions
If they tell you theyre thinking about suicide:
- Ask if theyve made a crisis or safety plan in therapy, and follow those steps.
- Connect them with their therapist for guidance on next steps.
- Encourage them to text the Crisis Text Line or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24/7 crisis support.
- Take them to the emergency room for support.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Best Way To Overcome Depression
Signs Of Depression In Children
Symptoms of depression in children often include:
- sadness, or a low mood that does not go away
- being irritable or grumpy all the time
- not being interested in things they used to enjoy
- feeling tired and exhausted a lot of the time
Your child may also:
- have trouble sleeping or sleep more than usual
- not be able to concentrate
- interact less with friends and family
- be indecisive
- eat less than usual or overeat
- have big changes in weight
- seem unable to relax or be more lethargic than usual
- talk about feeling guilty or worthless
- feel empty or unable to feel emotions
- have thoughts about suicide or self-harming
- actually self-harm, for example, cutting their skin or taking an overdose
Some children have problems with anxiety as well as depression. Some also have physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches.
Problems at school can be a sign of depression in children and young people and so can problem behaviour.
Older children who are depressed may misuse drugs or alcohol.
Work To Change The School Environment
We want whats best for our kids but some of that may involve things beyond the scope of our own familysystemic changes in schools, for example, that could lead to better psychological health for teens.
In light of research showing that teens who are sleep-deprived do worse in school and have a higher likelihood of developing depression, some parents are pressuring high schools to have later starting times. In addition, parents are insisting that schools provide healthy food to students, so they will get the good nutrition needed to prevent mental health issues down the road.
As teen advocate Vicki Abeles argues in her book, Beyond Measure, petitioning schools to assign less homework to students over holidays and vacations, while providing more specialized tutoring for kids who may need the extra attention, may help kids find more balance in their lives. Restorative justice programs at schools that help teens take responsibility for problematic behaviors and make amends to those affected have shown promise in reducing absenteeism and improving social climates for all students.
In that way, we not only help teens to avoid problems like depression, we help shape a positive future for them and for society.
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Recommended Reading: Severe Depression In Young Adults
Sometimes Parents Just Need To Let Their Kids Vent
Its hard to hear your child say they dont like life they dont want to grow up and they are just over it all. Its harder stillat least for meto listen and not utter a word or try to convince her otherwise. But thats what works for her. Sometimes thats all it takes to chase the angst away. We invited it in, but didnt let it to stay for dinner .
And when our dinner was ready, I helped her up, turned her around 3 timesits our little thing we do to shake off the bad and and held hands as we went up to eat. We had tamed the beast for the moment.
And when dinner was over, we all curled up on the couch and started reading Watership Down.
Because sometimes its ok to not adult.
Sometimes its ok to just be taken care of. Sometimes if you snuggle the teen, you can smother the Angst. At least for today.