Addressing the Rise in Teen Depression: Opening the Lines of Communication

Many of us know how to monitor the physical health of our teen. We can recognize when they’re sick and have the calendar marked for routine medical and dental appointments. Understanding a teen’s mental health, however, can sometimes not be as clear cut. But with the increase in teen depression, it’s especially important. A Chicago Tribune article published in 2019 highlights what parents and schools should pay attention to when it comes to the emotional and psychological wellbeing of teens and offers suggestions on how to provide them with the support they need.

For teens, it can feel like stress and frustration is coming at them from every angle. The frequent use of social media, bullying, puberty, are just some of the factors that may lead teens to feeling depressed. However, according to the Journal of American Medicine in Primary Care, signs of depression may not always be obvious to a teen’s parents or educators. In fact, there is occasionally a gender discrepancy in how teens express their depression. Research published in The Journal of American Medicine in Primary Care found that boys experiencing depression reported irritability, apathy and suicidal thoughts, while females described a recurrence of guilt, self-punishment, worthlessness, low energy, and fatigue.

If you are a parent or educator looking to support a teen who may be dealing with complex emotions or depression, here are two expert suggestions:

Let them know they can always come to you if they need help. And when they do, listen first.

“Teens often don’t want to share things with parents for fear that they will end up with a lecture. It might be helpful to save unsolicited feedback for another conversation. Try asking: ‘Do you want a suggestion, or do you just want to vent?’” – Gabrielle Roberts, clinical psychologist in pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn

Validate their feelings, regardless of how big or small the issue. Think back to when you were a teen. There are certainly things that seem small to you now that meant the world to you back then.

“Make them understand that you’re empathetic to their situation… and that they can tell you what’s going on at school… and speak candidly about how they’re reacting to it.” – Nadjeh Awadallah, clinical director of Community High School District 218′s INSPIRE program

For more information about the rise in teen depression and additional thoughts from Roberts and Awadallah, feel free to read the full Chicago Tribune article. Of course, these suggestions are not a substitute for seeking the guidance of medical professionals if you believe a teen in your life may be struggling with depression or another mental health disorder.

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