Depression among children and adolescents is a reality, however, unfortunately, most of the times when a teenager is showing signs of depression, we as parents, teachers and adults, just label it as the teen being moody or the pubertal hormones taking control. In the wake of increased suicide attempts by people in the age group of 15-24, it is time to wake up and accept that teen depression is very much a part of the world we are living in right now and further, it can happen to anyone anytime.
Just like adults, teens face a lot of pressures from the world around them. From the changes of puberty to discovering their identity, teenagers are overwhelmed with choices, which sometimes can push them over the edge. Although, not very easy to differentiate between mood swings and depression in teens, it is important that extreme mood changes in your teen not be ignored. Depression is a real problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s lives.
If you have an adolescent in your life, it is imperative that you are familiar with what teen depression looks like. Unlike adults, teens with depression may not necessarily appear sad; irritability, anger & agitation are more common. Some other prominent early signs of depression in teens are: tearfulness or frequent crying; withdrawal from friends, family, & academics; changes in eating & sleeping habits; feelings of worthlessness & guilt; fatigue or lack of energy; thoughts of suicide or death; among others.
As I have already mentioned several times in most of my previous blogs as well, the key to helping your teen with depression is not ignoring his / her problems. It is crucial that as a parent or caregiver you pay attention to their concerns, listening to them, being gentle and empathic and acknowledging their feelings. An adolescent with depression often secludes himself from friends and family. In such a scenario it is essential to encourage social connections. Face to face conversations with your teen sans the noise of smart phones & TV, social groups and activities, and persuading your teen to engage in even volunteer work, will help eliminate the social isolation greatly. Physical health should be prioritized at all times and even more so when signs of depression are being noticed. Involve your teen in physical routines or exercises, limiting screen time, a run under the open skies, will all help.
Certain amount of moodiness is part of growing up but extreme or persistent changes in personality, mood, and / or behavior are indicative of a deeper problem. If you are not sure whether your child is experiencing depression or is just experiencing mood swings, its best to seek professional help from a mental health professional.