“I didn’t tell you because I thought you would be mad at me.” “I am so sick of feeling this bad. I want it to stop.”
“I thought I could handle this on my own, and now I’m scared.”
Parents know when their teen is feeling down. We feel the depression as if it was our own; it’s the first feeling that comes to the surface when the alarm rings and it’s the last thing we’re ruminating about when falling sleep. This is not about parental ignorance, because as far as I see, there’s no such thing.
Just because children get older and we’re not with them as much as when they were babies or toddlers doesn’t mean we aren’t aching for every tear and sadness, and pining for a smile or shout of laughter so we can feel that flood of relief. Oh, she’s feeling better!
Depression is an extremely common mental illness, and teens are no exception when it comes to living with depression. One risk factor for suicide is the presence of one or more mental health issues. According to Stanford Children’s Health, normal developmental changes combined with stressful life events may cause a teen to think about suicide, and many of the warning signs for suicide are also symptoms of depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that every child over 12 years of age be routinely screened for depression because 1 in 5 adolescents experience depression.
But this is about education, information, and support. I’m parenting right alongside you. If you want to connect to your teen when they’re distressed, and you want to confront and respond to the connection between teen depression and suicide, stay here.
How can therapy help my son/daughter with depression?
People of all backgrounds and circumstances find themselves in need of a therapist every day. If your child is suffering from any of the symptoms below, therapy can help your teen because it actively supports normal development, and can be a place to learn safe ways to explore and express feelings and get healthy resources to cope with problems.
Symptoms of depression that may mean a teen needs the extra support:
Normal ups and downs in mood are just that – expectable and regular. The following are symptoms of depression that could warrant further attention:
Statements of helplessness that have become chronic. “I’ll never have any friends.” “I’m failing (math, chemistry, english) and I don’t care”. “It doesn’t matter, I’m a loser”.
Changes in sleeping and eating habits. Two weeks or more of remarkable significant changes in these routines are a heads up.
Excessive Irritability. This is different than the presentation of depression in adults and one of the criteria for meeting a diagnosis of depression for children.
Unnecessary Risk Taking. Being willing to participate in a level of risk that is uncharacteristic for your child.
Alcohol and Drug Use. Uncharacteristic behavior choices.
Loss of interest in normal and everyday activities. If this seems sudden or severe.
If my child is depressed, does that automatically mean they’re suicidal?
There are many indicators that elevate the risk of suicide for teens beyond living with depression. Family history of suicide, grieving the loss of another from suicide, difficulty coping with stress, and not being able to identify reasons to live are serious and dangerous factors contributing to suicide risk in teens. All statements disclosing suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide, having negative self talk about life and living) are not attempts to get attention and should be taken seriously. Depression is not a mental health issue that improves over time either, it will typically range in intensity and severity of symptoms but not go away.
Talking with a mental or medical health professional, such as a therapist, high school counselor, or pediatrician is NEVER excessive if you worry about depression or suicide for your teen, and many teens feel seen, heard, and understood when a caring adult takes this step. Now, that’s some real relief.