Depression and suicide in our teenagers is a very real and increasing issue now days. Children are experiencing more stressful life situations than what they are used to and what they are actually equipped to deal with. Social media is a massive contributing factor to this issue, more than what parents realise.

Teen depression is also associated with a number of other mental health problems including eating disorders and self-injury issues. While depression can cause tremendous pain for your teenager and disrupt everyday family life, there are things you can do to help your children start to feel better. The first step is to learn what your teenager is going through on a daily basis, what depression looks like and what to do if you spot the early warning signs.

Problems at school – depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. During school hours or study sessions you may see attendance issues, a drop in grades or frustration with homework. You may even see difficulties arise with their relationships with their peers or teachers. If these issues arise from a formally good student, this is something to take very seriously.

Running away – This is a huge cry for help! Pay attention if your teenager mentions that they want to run away or says anything along the lines of “I wish I could just run away from my life”.

Drug and alcohol abuse – Teenagers may use drugs or alcohol as a mean’s to ‘escape’ their depression. They may start to self-medicate with prescription drugs. Substance abuse only promotes feelings of depression (if they already exist) so this should be avoided at all costs.

Low self-esteem – Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure and unworthiness. Teenagers who express that their self-worth doesn’t exist or has warped ideas of who they are – parents need to rectify this immediately with words of praise and reassurance.

Smartphone addiction – Teenagers enjoy their screen time, some too much. Teenagers go online to escape or distract themselves from their problems. When excessive screen time or mindless internet scrolling becomes a daily habit, increasing social isolation or negative attitudes in your teenagers that’s when you step in and take action.

Reckless behaviour – Depressed teenagers may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviours, such as reckless drunk driving, binge drinking and unsafe sexual activities. If you notice an increasing negative or self-harming change in their behaviour you can take this as a red warning sign.

Violence – Some depressed teenagers not all, who are the victims of bullying, can become aggressive and violent. Some may take their desperate feelings out on their siblings or friends who are trying to comfort them or help them.

Remember adults have the means to reach out and ask for help, but teenagers often don’t realise that they have that option. They often just see one way out and that’s suicide! It’s vital as a parent of a teenager who are showing any of the early warning signs to make 100% sure that your child knows they have options, that they are loved and that you are there for them. It’s not always easy when your teenagers constantly fights with you and pushes you further and further away from them, if they won’t talk to you, then find someone else for them to talk to.

Depressed teenagers don’t necessarily appear sad, instead irritability, anger and agitation are the most prominent symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of a depressed teenager:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Self-isolation from friends and family
  • Decrease in school grades
  • Changes in eating and sleeping routines
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation for life
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

What should you do if your teenager is depressed?

It’s not too late for your teenagers, there is help available! As a parent your no.1 job is to love your children, and part of loving them is sometimes very hard when you don’t know what to do. You have the power to take action, talk to your teens – ask them how they are feeling, ask them if they need help! No matter how despondent life seems right now, there is a solution, the light of the end of the tunnel is wating for you. We will help you find it and keep it!

For more support visit www.redthinking.co.za and book your free consultation. We are here to teach your children to live a happy and positive life.