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How to help your depressed teen

New Delhi, Jan 5 (IANSlife) Teenagers are more often than not seen as being moody and temperamental. Usually it is believed that their moodiness is a phase in which they get triggered by the smallest thing and occurs because they want more independence.

It is possible that their irritability and in particular their low moods can be indicators of an underlying depressive illness which is characterized by loss of interest, lack of pleasure, sleep or appetite changes, fatigue, tiredness, lack of concentration, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness lasting over a period of two weeks.

If you know a teenager who is exhibiting the symptoms of depression, Kamna Chhibber, Head, Mental Health, Department of Mental health & Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare shares the important things to consider:

Help develop understanding – Aid the teenager in understanding that depression is a mental illness caused due to neurotransmitter imbalances. It does not reflect a weakness or a deficient character. Like any physical health disease it can affect anyone and needs to be treated.

Bust the myths the teenager holds – Provide the teenager with the right information so they can understand what is going on. Lack of information can cause them to negatively judge themselves and consider themselves weak for experiencing what they are. It is important to help them understand that depression is an illness affecting 300,000,000 people worldwide, including teenagers and is a treatable condition.

Do not be quick to provide solutions – If a teenager is experiencing symptoms of depression they may not be seeking a solution to the problems they are expressing. It is important to not keep trying to jump into the middle of what is being shared to solve the problem.

Listen to what is going on – It is important to maintain openness to listening to what the teenager is thinking and feeling. Asking what is going on and listening to what (s)he has to say is helpful in allowing them to release what is going on internally and not keep ruminating about it.

Express your understanding and be supportive – It is imperative of adopt a stance in which you express your understanding to the teenager. This allows for greater levels of sharing over time and makes the teen feel supported by you. This is a critical aspect in aiding recovery from a mental health illness.

Be encouraging and not pushy or nagging – Remember to keep encouraging the teenager to try to maintain routines, interests and activities. However, there is a fine line between being encouraging and becoming too pushy or nagging. The latter happens when you are not listening to what is going on with the teenager and there is no balance between encouraging and letting be. This can be a tricky balance to achieve.

Request them to maintain friendships – A teenager in a depressive state may struggle to maintain relationships, particularly with friends. It would be helpful to the teen to request and remind them to maintain their friendships, even though there may be moments of disappointment, lack of understanding or a disinterest in doing so.

Encourage help seeking – It is very crucial that if a teenager is meeting the criteria of a depressive illness that they be encouraged to seek help. Taking professional support is imperative. This involves meeting with a therapist for counselling or with a psychiatrist for medications.

In being supportive you can help your teenager seek the right treatment and support to treat the illness and also develop the skills and coping abilities to work through their experiences.

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