When Depression Haunts Teenagers

My child is depressed. What should I do now?  Steps to take when you feel your child may be depressed.


child depression

Steps to take when your child is depressed

One of the hardest things to swallow is when your own child is not feeling themselves.  You notice a small or large change in their mood, behaviour patterns, and daily activity which points towards some type of depression.  Your hope is that it is a temporary condition brought on by something that may have triggered the way they feel. Many teenage boys start to develop mood related symptoms around the age of 13 or 14. Many Teenage girls may develop mood related symptoms of depression around the age of 12.  The reason is that their body and hormones are changing and this may cause a decrease in serotonin which can adversely affect  the way they feel.   Their minds start getting confused in regards to what they are feeling.  They will often blame others or even their own parents for the way they are currently feeling.    It is extremely important that you take action early before it escalates into a serious condition that may require hospitalization and medication.

The stigma regarding mental illness is out there.  According to The journal of psychiatric Services 45% of people out there have a stigma regarding mental illness. They feel that they would be rejected by their peers if they were to find out that they have a mental health diagnosis.  This stigma does not assist those seeking help as they may get ignored or shamed by others.  It is also very difficult for a parent to realize their child is experiencing mental health issues.  Parents will often blame themselves for the way their child feels. They may feel that they should have given more attention to their child or have given them material items to make them more happy. There is no correlation between how much time you spend with your child or the monetary items you give them and depression.   Parent’s must realize that their child may be suffering from a mental illness and they need to find the best ways to help their child the best way they can.

Child Or Teenage Anxiety and Depression – Early Intervention

You notice your child is not acting like their usual self.  You may notice the following behaviour and patterns in your child.

  • Erratic sleep patterns – Your child may take a long time to get to sleep; They may sleep very little or way too much;  Gets up a lot in the middle of the night; May have frequent nightmares
  • Loss of appetite or an increase in appetite, may or not be associated with stomach pains
  • Feeling nauseous before attending school or an event
  • withdrawal from friends and/or family
  • Loss of motivation in school work or homework
  • Loss of motivation or withdrawal from day to day activities. For example they are not interested in going outside for walk, watching T.V., playing video games, or playing
  • Withdrawal from friends or family. They seem to be wanting to be left alone.  They do not want to talk much to you or others.

If you notice the above symptoms it is important to try and find the root of the problem.  This is the time to spend a significant amount of time with your child.  Talk to them and they may reveal what is bothering them that may be causing their temporary symptoms.  If they are not talking to you try to find a relative or someone else in the household that can speak to them and find out what is bothering them.  It is common that children of this age would rather talk to someone else about what they are experiencing instead of their own parents.  They feel their parents may over react to what they have to say.   Once you find out what is bothering reassure your child that you are there for them and they are not alone. As a parent you need to remain calm and positive and never place the blame on the child for the way they feel.

If it is a school bullying issue, you need to make sure that a report is issued to the school regarding the bullying and accompanying medical documentation indicating that your child is having a medical condition because of harassment within the school.  If the school receives the report they will act fast to resolve the issue and make sure your child feels safe at school or may make course or classroom changes to ensure that the bullying stops.

If it is another issue, that you feel you can help your child. You need to  work on solving those issues with your child.  It may be as simple as your child saying that they feel overwhelmed with school work and need to take a break from school work.

If it is a fear, or phobia your child is experiencing than a psychotherapist may help using cognitive behaviour therapy.

It is important that if the symptoms persist longer than 2 weeks in length that your doctor is notified as they can conduct a series of blood tests to find out if there is anything physically wrong that may be causing your child’s symptoms. There could be a lack of vitamen B12, D, TSH overstimulation etc.. that can be solved with medical therapy.

Things to Do, While your child is experiencing anxiety and depression

  • Change your child’s diet, make sure that your child is getting well balanced meals.  Try to avoid foods or wean them off the foods that do not contain much nutrients such as pizza and fries.   Your child may be craving these foods because these foods give them that good feeling. However, these fast foods may be detrimental to your child’s physical and mental health well being.  Check with your local doctor about giving your child vitamins.
  • Start going for brisk walks with your child.   Any physical activity increases the serotonin levels in your body, which will help your child feel better.  It also gives you and opportunity to talk with your child.  There are no excuses to keep your child sedentary because you feel it is too cold  to go out for a brisk walk.  Rain or shine, put on your boots, raincoat, and/or winter paraphernalia and go for a walk with your child.  These walks could be about 15 minutes to begin with twice a day and increase them to half an hour.  The walks are healthy for you too.   If it is negative 40 out there go to a mall and walk around the mall.   It is important that your child gets some physical activity everyday.
  • Have your child join a physical education or cultural program either at your nearest community centre or privately run courses or agencies.
  • Go out with your child.  Go to a mall, museum, recreation centre, movie, or park.  Changing the scenery by going out may help your child focus on something else rather than their worries or thoughts.
  • If it is not possible to go on an outing, spend some time with your child at home.   Tell them you want to watch a show or movie at home with them and you will bring the popcorn and treats.
  • Try to limit the use of electronics  such as video games, social media,  and the internet.  These types of media may actually be aggravating how they are experiencing since they may be receiving some sort of bullying through social media.

Mental Health Facilities and Agencies in Canada.  A referral from a family practitioner is needed to initiate outpatient mental health programs.

Some Final Thoughts

  • Remember that you are not alone when facing these mental health concerns, there are many people facing the same hurdles you and your child are going through
  • Think positive their are many options out there to help your child deal with their anxiety and depression
  • This is the time to start talking to close family or friends about what is happening.  They may be able to help you out more than you think.
  • Visit the nearest hospital or call an ambulance if you feel your child is danger of hurting themselves or in danger of hurting others.

Toronto Area

Ottawa Area

Canada Wide

The Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) provides confidential 24/7 phone and web counselling for children ages 20 and under throughout Canada. They may also refer you to the nearest mental health facility in your local area to assist your child find the right treatment provider.


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