Teenage depression

Spotting the signs and supporting teenagers through depression

Estimated read: 8 minutes 

If your teenager is showing signs of depression, you may find yourself wondering whether it's 'just a phase' or something more serious. 

Key points: 

  • Try to give your child lots of reassurance by active listening and really hearing what they are saying to you
  • Take things at their pace as they may not be ready to do everything all at once. It is all about taking tiny steps and making realistic plans
  • Make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can so they can access help and a referral for counselling or therapy
teenage depression

Understanding depression

It is not uncommon for teenagers to feel low or withdrawn at times. They may have a lot going on all at once and just need time out. However, if they are feeling like this for a prolonged period of time, it may be that they have depression. This is a mood disorder which can make someone feel very low continuously.

What can cause depression

There are several reasons or situations that can cause depression. A young person might be struggling with issues in their lives such as bullying, friendships issues, problems at home or at school. You may have noticed that they have been withdrawn or feeling increasingly anxious.

Spotting the signs

Depression can affect young people in different ways and not everyone who is feeling low, will have the same signs. Some of the signs you may be able to spot are:

  • persistent sadness
  • loss of interest in life
  • tiredness or very low energy
  • extreme moodiness, irritability and volatile behaviour
  • giving up interests without finding any new ones
  • showing a lack of interest in school and or a marked decline in schoolwork
  • losing contact with friends or their social circle
  • not washing or looking after themselves properly
  • eating too much or too little
  • issues with their sleeping
  • risky behaviour, such as drug taking or alcohol consumption

Other triggers that could be an upset, could be splitting up with a partner, or not doing as well in something as they’d hoped. These events may not seem a big deal to you, but they may be major for your teenager. Try not to belittle what they’re going through; try to see it from their perspective.

Supporting your teen

If your teenager starts sending out negative statements about themselves, give lots of positive messages back. Encourage healthy eating, regular exercise and new challenges and adventures. Try to do this with them so they do not feel alone. Take things at their pace as they may not be ready to do everything all at once. It is all about taking tiny steps and making realistic plans.

Try to give your child lots of reassurance by active listening and really hearing what they are saying to you. Talking is important too but again, allow them to take this at their pace. Sometimes planting the seed that you’ve noticed they’re not happy and are ready to talk when they are can set the ball rolling. If your teen is particularly unresponsive, try communicating on their terms through a text, letting them know you are with them every step of the way.

Most importantly, listen to your instincts. Parents are the experts in their own children and if they are concerned something is not right then they generally know best.

Getting help

Make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can so they can access help and a referral for counselling or therapy. If they are at school or college, let them know so they can provide your child with support too. Getting your teen some help to manage their depression and feelings is a positive step, so they have strategies if and when they feel overwhelmed.

Further resources

It may help to speak to an organisation called Young Minds as they can give you lots of guidance on next steps and help that is available to your teen. MIND has lots of helpful information for families on teen depression too. It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

This page was updated on September 2021

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