Parenting children comes with its ups and downs, but no one can fully prepare to find out their child has depression. It’s a scary mental illness that, if left untreated, can seriously impact a person’s life negatively, and even if you yourself experience depression, the illness portrays itself differently in everyone. It’s important to recognize the warning signs that your teenager might be depressed and, like with any illness, figure out what to do to help them feel better. Thankfully, organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have an abundance of information to help both you and your teenager.
What are the signs?
Think about what you were like when you were a teenager. Mood swings and emotions ran rampant through your brain, and that hasn’t changed for teenagers today. Unfortunately, these episodes can make it difficult to figure out whether your child is simply growing up or if the mood swings are signifying something more serious. In order to help your child, you need to be familiar with the warning signs. These include (but are not limited to):
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of interest
- A drastic change in eating habits (too much or too little)
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Fatigue and aches
- Thoughts of suicide or death
If your teenager is experiencing one or a combination of these symptoms, that’s a sign that you need to get them help.
How to Help Your Child
Your child will need both professional and emotional support to ensure their depression doesn’t worsen. Professionally, the best you can do for them is to take them to your doctor or a mental health professional and discuss your options there. There may be medications your child can try, or your doctor might suggest therapy as a viable support network. In any case, getting professional help will ultimately be more beneficial than trying to ignore the mental illness. In fact, ignoring it could make it worse.
At home, you’re your child’s emotional rock. Depression is a difficult illness to handle, so having family and friends to lean on will ease that burden. You can do this by spending quality time with your child, encouraging them to be open with you, and having honest conversations with one another. If your child needs to talk, listen to what they have to say, and don’t dismiss their inner struggles, because these struggles are very much real.
Talk, listen, and encourage your child, and slowly but surely, you may be able to help them overcome their depression.