What do I do if my teen seems depressed?

If you’ve noticed changes in your teen, such as irritability, withdrawal, sleep disturbance, or a change in appetite, you’re bound to be worried.It can be really difficult to broach topic of mental health with your teen- they may feel judged, or that there’s no way you as their parent can understand what they’re going through.Here are some tips for starting the conversation if you’re concerned that your child may be depressed: 

  • Try to approach the conversation at a time that’s comfortable for both of you ( in private, when you’re both relaxed without time constraints)
  • Name specific things you’ve noticed, and try to avoid labeling how you think they’re feeling. Ex: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been sleeping a lot lately and you’re not as interested in hanging out with your friends. Whats up?”
  • Maintain an open mind and try to get their perspective.
  • If they’re not ready to talk about it, note that you care and are open to talking about how they’re feeling at any time.
  • Do NOT minimize what they say- If they explain that they feel like they’ve been under tons of pressure with school, listen and validate their feeling. 
  • Try to do more listening than talking.
  • If they recognize that something is wrong, see if they’re open to getting help. This could start with their regular doctor, a counselor at school, a therapist, or some self-help activities.

 Teen depression is very common, but needs to be taken seriously. Early intervention can help your teen identify their feelings and learn coping strategies, and it’s more likely to lead to recovery. It’s ok to talk openly about mental health- it can be validating and make the topic seem a lot less intimidating.

Published by Mary Feamster, LPC

Charlottesville-based therapist passionate about helping people improve their mental health, move well, and be well.

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