Depression is a very complex and individualized mental health issue that many people, including teens, experience during their lifetime. In fact, teen depression impacts 2.8 million American adolescents, which is over 11 percent of the total population of teens age 12 to 17, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are a parent of a teen who is struggling with major depression, then it can be difficult to know how to best reach, support, and help heal your teen. You may not know what to say, or how to act in a helpful, supportive manner that will resound with your teen and help them overcome their depression. Many parents or loved ones of depressed teens experience these same reservations, and it may be due to the fact that so many truths about teen depression often go unsaid and unrecognized.
Here are 8 truths about teen depression that you can absorb, learn, and speak about when it comes to your teen’s mental health:
- No one chooses teen depression.
Depression is not a choice, but rather is a serious medical illness that negatively impacts and alters how your teen views themselves, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Depression impacts teens physically, mentally, and emotionally and has the power to be completely debilitating. When you speak to your teen about depression, always remember that they aren’t making a conscious choice to be sad. They are suffering from an illness that will require care, support, and healing to recover.
- Well-meaning encouragements can be perceived as insulting and unhelpful by depressed teens.
Sharing vague encouragements with your depressed teen may have the opposite effect of your good intentions, and may be taken as insults. Rather than saying something like, “It’s okay, you will be fine,” give your support and love first, and solutions second. For example, a teen suffering from depression may react and connect better to your intents and helpful parental desires if you say, “I love you and believe in you. You are strong, and I am here for you to listen and help.”
- For depressed teens, distance often precedes closeness.
Teen depression can cause feelings of unworthiness and heavy burdens. Your teen might become withdrawn, or even refuse to speak with you about their condition and feelings. In this instance, it is valuable for another trusted family member or a teen counselor to step in and offer support, encouragement, and help. It may be very difficult to give your teen space, but they may need it to heal and draw close to you once again.
- Your feelings of frustration, as a parent or loved one of a depressed teen, are valid.
You are allowed to feel frustrated about what your teen is going through. You should take great care in properly venting your frustrations though, and find support and encouragement in family, friends, or support groups. Never vent to your teen, as it can deepen their depression if they feel like they are becoming a burden to you due to their mental health issue.
- But, it’s also not about you.
As a parent or loved one of a teen struggling with depression, it can be very difficult for you to witness your son or daughter in such pain. Remember that depression is a complex condition, and it is not about you. Try not to take anything your teen says too personally, and stay steadfast in your love and support.
- Teen depression is a tough situation, but those who are depressed should not be admonished with harsh words or demands.
Approaching a depressed teen with toughness or harsh words can plunge them deeper into their depressive state of being by making them feel attacked, guilty, or ashamed. When you interact with your teen, always extend love, support, and understanding. Encourage them to speak openly and listen without judgement.
- Each teen struggling with depression is going through something unique and specific to them.
Depression is an illness that is highly individualized to the person experiencing it. For this reason, it is important that you don’t generalize your teen’s experience with others you have heard about or witnessed. Instead, encourage your teen to share how depression makes them feel, how it impacts them, and help them combat it on a personalized level.
- Teen depression does not equate weakness.
One of the largest and most dangerous lies about depression in circulation is that depression is a sign of weakness. In fact, it is believed that the exact opposite is true. Dr. Tim Cantopher authored a book called Depressive Illness: Curse of the Strong, which explores the pervasive nature of depression and how it can impact even the strongest individuals. He seeks to help empower those battling depression by drawing from their own strength to heal and grow even stronger. This can be a very valuable truth and viewpoint for you to consider daily as your teen battles depression.