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Only over the past few decades have mental health professionals acknowledged that teenagers can suffer from depression. Consequently, they had to determine how to help them.
The fact that awareness of teen depression is so new means that treatments may not have the same established history and proof of effectiveness as treatments for adults. This can make it challenging for parents.
To further complicate matters, over a ten-year period beginning in 2005, the rate of teen depression jumped 37 percent. As of 2016, more than 3 million individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced depression. If you suspect your child is struggling, here’s what you can do.
Misperceptions of Teen Depression
When a person is depressed, they are not just a bit sad. They are struggling with persistent symptoms that have lasted for weeks, which can include negative thought patterns related to their self-worth. Depression can have serious repercussions if left untreated.
In some cases, teens who are depressed stop socializing, spend their time sleeping and refuse to engage in preferred activities. There can be physical manifestations of depression, including hand-wringing and cutting. In some cases, teen depression may cause them to stop eating or attempt suicide.
People who do not have much experience with mental health issues may think that a person who is depressed can simply snap out of it. Since teenagers are going through puberty and experiencing hormonal changes, adults can sometimes overlook the severity of their teens’ issues.
During their teenage years, individuals go through a lot of transitions. They are increasingly aware of the expectations they face from their family, peers, and society. For example, it can be frustrating for a teenager who has no idea what career they want to pursue if all of their friends already have a college plan in place.
Teens also struggle with acceptance. As their body and interests change, they start exploring their own identity in new ways. Teens who accept themselves are more likely to be self-assured, while those who struggle with self-acceptance may experience depression.
Acceptance extends to others. Teens seek peer relationships to try to fit in. When teens do not find acceptance from others they can be isolated, which contributes to feelings of worthlessness.
Teenagers are also exploring their sexuality, and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are more likely to struggle with depression and other mental health issues.
There are a number of options for teenagers who need help. In some cases, attending a residential treatment for teen depression might be ideal, because it gives teens a chance to step into a new environment where they don’t have to face existing expectations or deal with the impressions people have of them already. It can be an opportunity to have a fresh start.
These programs also have the benefit of continuous access to experienced mental health professionals who understand the specific challenges that depressed teenagers face. They will not dismiss symptoms or issues that arise. Their objective is to help teenagers work through their depression so that they can have a happy, fulfilling life.
Teenagers can also benefit from seeing a counselor or participating in a support group. Counselors help their clients identify triggers that contribute to their depression and help them develop coping mechanisms to manage those triggers.
Support groups can help break down the sense of isolation that teenagers could be facing. Learning that others face similar challenges can assure them that they are not alone, which helps break the negative mental cycle that feeds into depression.
Parents and adults who work with teens should also be aware of mental health services available by phone. If you suspect that a teen is at risk of suicide then you can connect them with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach out to residential facilities, who often have staff available for phone consultations 24 hours a day.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.