Teens are moody, they get sad, and they are reserved. But “depressed” is not a word to use lightly. Understand that Depression is a clinically diagnosed illness, and it may have nothing to do with outside circumstances. Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, wrote, “Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.” This means that the feeling of depression is so overpowering, it feels entirely out of context to what is happening around you, and you may feel as though you are grieving when there is nothing, externally, to grieve about. The brilliant poet and author, Sylvia Plath, was successful in her career, had a beautiful young daughter, and a husband she loved, but her suicide is well-documented: she stuck her head into an oven one day and gassed herself to death. One of her most famous quotes is "Is there no way out of the mind?"
If your teenager is depressed, this is serious and requires care the way a physical illness like cancer would. Do not take depression lightly and expect your child to “snap out of it”, because that doesn’t happen.
Here’s how you can tell if your teenager is struggling with depression:
If your teenager is exhibiting certain changes in sleeping and eating patterns, irritability, uncharacteristic quietness, frequent crying, lethargy, and a general air of sadness, it’s important to keep an eye on them and document their moods and actions. If these signs persist for more than two weeks, contact a specialist who has the qualifications to correctly diagnose your child, as well as a medical practitioner who can rule out other possibilities. They may require medication, or therapy, or even a combination of both. A therapist that specializes in teen therapy can help you understand your teen and their depression. Understanding how depression is affecting your teen can help improve your relationship. Teen therapy can help with teaching your teen how to cope with depression.
Due to depression, your teen’s grades may be falling; they may lose interest in their friends and other social activities, and may be spending more and more time in isolation. Finding a new peer group, or engaging in new and dangerous activities like sneaking out are probably not signs of depression, because a depressed person has no energy to even get out of bed and dress every day. Depression, however, can lead to drug abuse or alcohol consumption in order to numb the mental anguish, and left untreated could lead to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. People don’t die of suicide, they die of sadness; and depression is a sadness so great it takes over every aspect of your life and grows around you like a vine.
Parents can help the most by not shrugging off depression as moodiness, and not blame themselves or their children. If you see signs of depression, talk to your teen and try to understand what they say, and also what they aren’t saying. Seek help, and just be there for your child, even if you don’t know what to do.