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Help Your Teen Overcome Depression With 10 Practical Steps

Angela Paoli
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Mother helping teen overcome depression.
Depression can feel like an inescapable cloud, but with the right tools and treatment, there's a way out.

You can play a fundamental role in helping your teen navigate depression with compassion, reliable information, and professional help.

Equipped with resources like online therapy and expert information, you can foster a supportive environment. As a social worker and online therapist, I’ve seen how parents with the right tools can positively impact their child's mental well-being. So, let's explore ten practical steps you can use to support your teen today.

» Does your teen need expert support? Check out our top picks for the best online therapy for teens.

1. Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Depression

In my experience, genetics can significantly increase a teen’s risk of depression, such as if your family has a history of the condition. Over 15% of all adolescents and teens in the US meet the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD).

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Increased irritability and frustration
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Persistent fatigue and lack of motivation

2. Identify and Mitigate Triggers

Once you understand the symptoms, you must recognize the triggers of depressive episodes to help you mitigate them. Hormonal changes during puberty can also intensify the impact of depression triggers.

Frequent conflict between parents, other primary caregivers, siblings, and other family members tends to be a frequent depressive trigger for teenagers. And traumatic events, such as parental divorce, losing a loved one, natural disasters, bullying, or abuse, can further increase this risk.

» Learn more about how divorce counseling can help your children.

3. Understand the Consequences

Generally, teens with untreated depression report lower overall quality of life and higher stress. As parents, understanding the potential consequences of untreated teenage depression underscores the urgency of treating it. It can guide you in seeking appropriate help.

I’ve seen that depressed teens are at a higher risk of suicide and may engage in self-harming and risky behaviors, such as substance abuse and unsafe sex. Depression can also negatively affect your teen’s academic performance, physical activity, diet, and social life.

» Learn more about parenting mistakes that can lead to depression in adults.

4. Foster Open Communication

I believe that open, non-judgmental communication between parents and teens is vital. Social support, especially parent-adolescent communication, has been shown to potentially improve symptoms of depression.

It creates a safe space for your child to express their feelings, providing them with emotional release and a sense of being heard and cared for. It's also ideal for building their self-esteem.

5. Seek Professional Help

If your teen’s symptoms of depression persist for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek professional help. In my experience, early intervention leads to better outcomes. But if your teen expresses suicidal ideation with an intent to act, you must consider immediate hospitalization.

Online therapy for depression can help teach your child coping skills and address maladaptive thoughts and beliefs, replacing them with healthier ones. In fact, virtual platforms like Teen Counseling and Talkspace offer therapy specifically designed for teens.

6. Investigate Medical Interventions

Psychiatrists on online therapy services like Cerebral can prescribe medication if necessary. And the most effective meetings allow healthcare professionals to empower teens to take medication independently.

If they advise your teen to take antidepressants, you must familiarize yourself with the potential side effects and usage guidelines. Antidepressants can cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach, so you should educate your child about proper consumption.

» Learn more about the best online therapy services that can prescribe medication.

7. Provide Education and Self-Help Resources

Sit down with your child and ask what they might find most helpful. Do they need someone to listen to them in a crisis? More tools to cope with their intense moods or sadness? A more supportive community?

Several free resources are available to educate your teen and help them cope with depression. For example, The Trevor Project offers a 24/7 crisis lifeline and text/chat line for LGBTQ+ youth.

8. Celebrate Progress and Resilience

Recognize and celebrate small milestones in your teen's recovery. This approach helps them acknowledge their achievements, improves their confidence, and boosts their mental health and self-perception.

When you reward your teen for their well-being efforts, you reinforce their progress and motivate them to keep using healthy coping skills and challenge negative thoughts.

9. Foster a Supportive Social Network

Teens with depression need strong support systems. So, encourage your child to build connections with understanding and supportive friends and family.

Teens can feel more connected and less isolated by joining clubs or groups that match their interests. This could be anything from participating in a hobby club, playing a sport, or simply spending time with friends and family. The aim is to build a safe space where your teen feels understood and accepted by like-minded people.

10. Encourage Real-Life Connections

While online connections can be valuable, excessive social media use has been associated with worsened mental health among youth of many different demographics.

That’s why it’s crucial to encourage real-life, in-person interactions. So, try to balance their online and offline interactions, promoting healthier social habits.

Support Your Teen: Empowerment With Compassion

I’ve worked with many teens who've successfully managed their depression, often needing to remain mindful of its potential resurgence into adulthood. Your child’s success can often depend on adequate social support, learning and implementing coping skills, and challenging negative thoughts.

Your child is not alone in this struggle. There are people who understand and want to help. Encourage your child to use the resources mentioned in this article, talk to people they trust about their experiences, and remind them not to judge themselves harshly.

» Want to make treatment more convenient? Learn more about how to get the most out of online therapy.

Angela Paoli
Angela Paoli writes for Top10.com and is currently works as a tele-health Therapist Associate providing evidence-based treatments to diverse individuals who are experiencing anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar, insomnia, ADHD, etc. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and has over a decade of experience working as a licensed social worker and online therapist. She specializes in providing mental health services to US military members and their families.

The author of this article has been paid by Natural Intelligence to write this article. Neither the author nor Natural Intelligence provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or your local emergency number immediately.