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Many times parents don't believe that their teen can or should be depressed because they don't have any real responsibilities. Afterall, they don't have bills to pay, they don't buy their own clothes or supplies... they live rent free and eat without paying the grocery bill. This train of thought is often the number one reason why so many teens go undiagnosed and why even more consider suicide. YES! Teen depression is real.
Just take a moment and think about how your teen has gone from being outgoing and social to closed off and quiet. When you ask your teen what's wrong, they shy away or become aggressive and avoid you. You don't know what to do but you know something is wrong. Did you know that teen anxiety and depression can lead to severe or even terminal issues for the adolescent? Of those teens who suffer from depression only 20 percent receive the help they need.
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Make Sure Your Child Get's the Help They Need
While your teen’s depressive state may be temporary (a relationship break-up, bad test grade or being rejected) it can also become a more permenant threat to the teen. If you believe your teen is suffering from depression, take action right away for an official diagnosis.
Consult your family doctor: Even though your primary care physician may not specialize in depression, they will be able to refer you to specialists who are. The initial visit to your doctor will help you identify the severity of depression through a series of tests relative to anxiety and depression.
Seek out a specialist: Once you have met with your PCP you will be referred to a specialist, usually a mental health specialist who can begin treatment for your teen. Check with your insurance provider for locating a reputable specialist.
Consider antidepressants: Many parents and doctors do not agree that a teen should be given medicine to cope with their depression; however, there are recommended antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Unfortunately, SSRIs carry a warning that they may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in children and adolescents. Teens and families should be alert for sudden changes or increased suicidal thoughts. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of this type of medicine.
Find alternatives for treatments: Alternative treatments include psychotherapy approaches, such as one-on-one and group sessions; behavior management; family support groups; and educational classes. Either approach helps the teen through constant conversations.
Try to understand their feelings: It's easy to blame your teen’s mood on ‘teenage attitude’ but according to leading psychologists, parents should not disregard their teen’s feelings. Rather you should validate their feelings and acknowledge their trials, even if you think the trials are insignificant. If your teen feels that you are unable to understand them, then they may shut down.
Stay the course: There will be resistance once you start asking your teen about what's bothering them, but stay the course. Instead of getting frustrated when your teen refuses to talk, be gentle and stay persistent. Don’t ask too many questions but offer support to your teen.
Don’t fuss or lecture - Listen: Sometimes one of the hardest things for a parent to do is listen when their teen is complaining or talking about their problems. As a parent, it is common to judge or criticize your teen for not performing or acting well but this is not recommended. If your teen is suffering from anxiety or depression, then listening is the best remedy to identify the root cause of their mental state.
Give your teen encouragement to regain their interests and activities; seek help from different medical professionals and alternative groups. Most importantly, stay abreast of the symptoms and watch your child for positive or negative reactions to treatment.
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How a Parent Can Help
I think one of the hardest things I had to ordeal as a mother was watching my teen son go through the stages of depression after my ex-husband, his stepfather, abruptly terminated the relationship with him. Fortunately, I was able to notice the signs of depression because I was familiar with them. Of course I made sure my son got all the help he needed, including antidepressants and psychotherapy, I also made sure I took an active role in his recovery. Here are some ways you can help your child and family deal with depression:
- Purchase a journal for them to write down their thoughts: Depression is a mental condi tion which may ultimately destroy the foundation of a teen and his or her family. When having your child journal their thoughts try not to coerce or hang over them as they write. Allow them to feely express themselves without restraints. Your family will also benefit from journaling their emotions and feelings during your teen’s transition period.
- Seek others family members or friends help: While admitting to someone outside of your immediate family that your teenager is suffering from depression may not be the ideal situation, you should consider speaking with someone you trust who may be able to talk with your teen. Having a someone you trust to talk to about your teen’s mental condition will also help you process.
- Monitor their medication intake: If your teen has been prescribed medication for depression then you should monitor their dosage intake and be stern to ensure that the medicine is administered properly. Designating a time for other family members to check on medicine intake will also help the family with dealing with teen depression by allowing younger or older siblings become part of your depressed teen’s recovery.
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- Have frequent meetings with your teen to chart their progress: The natural thing for a person suffering from depression is to slink away from the world and stay to themselves but this is not the way to address the situation. You should be sure to establish frequent meetings, outings, or other events to keep your teen actively involved even if their participation level is not up to par. Keeping your family on track with meetings and other functions will enable them to continue to function as a family unit.
- Seek counseling as a family: If you have already taken the steps to secure a therapist for your teen then consider scheduling visits for other family members. Everyone needs someone to talk to and a neutral professional will help your family deal with teen depression. Your goal is to get back on track with a healthy family.
- Don’t beat yourself up for your teen being depressed: Oftentimes when a teen suffers from a mental illness the parent immediately blames themselves but I encourage you not to blame yourself. Mental illnesses may occur because of hereditary or environmental factors; therefore, you should work with the therapist to learn the causes and how to resolve them.
- Don’t give up: When your teen is depressed, at any stage, one of the hardest thing to continue to do is remain motivated. Again, you and your family have to remain strong in order to help your teen overcome depression.
Depression is not an adult state of mind and is not based on the stresses of work and bills. It can and has impacted the lives of millions of teenagers and continues to be a threat to the mental wellbeing and overall health of teenagers. I know depression hurts the teen and their family but staying strong as a family unit helps the family recover from teen depression.
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Additional Resources & Suggestions
You are not alone in dealing with depression in your family. There are resources available to you. I worked through my teen’s depression through my personal experiences and accounts. I had to reflect on how significant the impact of the divorce was and how it made everyone feel. Many of us do not take the time to reflect on the holistic view a traumatic situation and how it impacts our children, especially our teens. I had to gather resources from the doctors we visited as well as the ones I collected independently.
Here is the list of resources which include websites, hotlines, clinics, and other places to help you:
- Check with your local area for adolescent or teen counselors, clinics, doctors and other healthcare professionals.
- Visit www.familyfirstaid.org or www.troubledteensguide.com for interactive teen programs. You can do an internet search for teen related programs and try to determine which ones are national or local programs.
- Purchase a journal from any store such as a Target, Wal-Mart or your local office supply store. Consider purchasing a journal for everyone in your family.
- Just pick a day and time for your family meetings but be sure everyone is in attendance, especially key people. Use a traditional calendar, cell phone calendar or MS Outlook to set and remind of meeting times.
- If you need to speak with someone, personally, about dealing with your teen’s depression, find a healthcare professional.
- Locate some close friends who are interested in your teen’s recovery and not gossip.
- If you do not trust your teen to administer their own medicine then keep it on you or hidden and have someone help you.
Remember teen depression hurts everyone in a family, but you can help your family deal with it together.