As someone who does not yet have children, I can hardly imagine the anguish that parents must feel thinking about the possibility that their children suffer from any health problem . Teenagers in particular, who are often elusive and not very communicative with their parents, may be suffering from problems without their being able or knowing how to do something to alleviate them.
The depression is a mental illness that we associate with adulthood, with serious problems , work stress, personal loss or emotional problems. A child or adolescent who has all his needs covered, why would he become depressed?
It is a deceptive way to expose it because there is no need for great misfortunes or tensions in a person’s life to develop a depression, a disease in which many factors intervene but which fundamentally involves a chemical imbalance in the brain, and therefore also the adolescents suffer it .
And they do it . Depression is the leading cause of illness and disability in adolescents and suicide is the second leading cause of juvenile death worldwide according to the WHO. It is estimated that one in five people suffer or suffered from depression during their adolescence.
A problem that goes unnoticed
However, it is a problem that often goes unnoticed until it is too late: it is estimated that half of adolescents who suffer from depression reach adulthood without having been diagnosed , and that up to two thirds of them receive no treatment I can help you
This happens for several reasons. One is that it is often difficult for parents to detect that something is wrong . Adolescence is an age of many changes, also of mood and personality, and it is not always easy to distinguish what is rebellion or apathy from what may be isolation, anxiety or depression.
In addition, the access of minors to mental health professionals is limited and mediated by their parents or guardians, which can cause many not to ask for the help they need. Finally, they themselves may not recognize the symptoms since they have not lived a normal previous adult life with which to compare their current state and thus be aware that something in their health is not right.
For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued a document in which it gives instructions for a massive screening that detects early depression in adolescents.
How to recognize depression in adolescents
The occasional bad mood, that communication suffers or that a teenager seems apathetic some times is something normal within what we call the age of the turkey . But then, how to recognize if a kid suffers from depression?
The depression goes beyond what we consider the age of the turkey. It is something that can affect the depth of your personality and make you feel a deep sadness, emotional emptiness or constant anger, affecting your social and family relationships, your academic performance and your future prospects, especially if depression is not It is diagnosed and treated.
Often adolescents who suffer from depression show a remarkable change in behavior , sleeping too much or not sleeping hardly, modifying their eating habits (sometimes they develop eating disorders) and getting into trouble.
– Problems in school: depression can cause a huge drop in energy and concentration problems that can result in lack of attention in class, problems to study and lowering of grades in boys and girls who were once good students.
– Run away from home: sometimes depressed teenagers flee their homes or talk about fleeing their homes. It is often a wake-up call.
Depression can worsen self-esteem at a time when it is inherently sensitive
– Consumption of alcohol or drugs: consuming alcohol or drugs can be a way to relieve your depression, but the damage they cause can be much worse than momentary relief.
– Fall of the self-esteem: the depression can worsen the self-esteem in an epoch in which this is in by itself delicate.
– Problematic use of the mobile: a depressed teenager can spend hours and hours connected to the phone without paying attention to anything else.
– Reckless behavior: drugs, unprotected sex, reckless driving, access to dangerous places …
– Violence: especially children who have suffered abuse, aggression or bullying can also show violent and aggressive behavior.
Other symptoms that may be a warning signal are muscle, back or head aches, tiredness and fatigue, difficulty in making decisions, feeling guilty , memory loss, thinking about death and the idea of dying or losing contact with your friends.
How to help a teenager with depression
An untreated depression can be a difficult burden for anyone, especially a teenager, and can mark you for years. Therefore, if you appreciate some of these symptoms, do not wait for them to disappear and seek professional help .
Meanwhile, there are some things that parents can do to help recovery and prevent the problem from escalating. Ideally, you can have a quiet conversation with him or her and discuss the symptoms that you have appreciated in their behavior and why you are worried. Avoid asking many questions, something that kids do not like, and focus on listening. Let him know that you will give him the support he needs.
Improves communication with him / her
-Listen and do not scold: avoid criticizing or judging what you say when you start talking. The important thing is to open a channel of communication and it will be much more beneficial for you to understand that you are there to support you than a thorough review of what you have done well and what you have done wrong.
– Be kind but insistent: do not give up if at first they are silent and do not want to open up. Talking about a depression is difficult for those who suffer from it, regardless of their age and even if they want to do so. Respect your child’s space but let him know your concern and your willingness to listen when he is ready to speak.
– Recognize your depression: do not dismiss your feelings even if they seem childish or unjustified. You can try, with good intentions, to explain why “it’s not so bad” but he may feel that you do not take his problems seriously. Simply accepting another’s grief can be a great relief for him, making him feel understood and supported.
– Trust your instinct. If your child tells you that there is no problem and that everything is going well, but does not explain the reason for your depressive behavior, trust your instincts. Consider going to a third person, a teacher you trust or a mental health professional, to talk to them and gradually opening.
Encourage him to socialize
Adolescents who suffer from depression tend to get away from their friends and abandon activities they once enjoyed, but isolation makes depression worse, creating a vicious circle that is better to try to break.
Spend every day talking with him or her, a time without distractions in which that is your only activity
– Prioritize the time you spend together. Devote every day a while to talk with him or her, a time without distractions in which that is your only activity. This can help break your isolation and reduce your depression. Remember also that talking about your feelings will not make things worse, but making the problem something tangible and manageable that you can talk about can play an important role in your recovery.
– Fight your social isolation: do what you can to keep in touch with other people, such as encouraging them to go out with their friends or invite their friends to your house from time to time.
– Encourage him to do things: sports, clubs, associations, music, art, dance classes … Something that stimulates his talent and that makes him regain interest in something to improve his spirit and enthusiasm.
– Suggest a volunteer: doing things for others is a powerful antidepressant and a way to increase self-esteem. Help your child find something to be involved in that makes him feel fulfilled.
Make physical health a priority
Mental illnesses feed on poor health: sleep problems, insufficient or insufficient nutrition, lack of physical activity … Adolescents often neglect their physical health, but helping them take care of it is a way of taking care of their mental health .
– Encourage him to move: teenagers should spend an hour a day doing physical exercise , but it does not have to be ruled, organized or boring. Take the dog for a walk, go hiking or climbing, dance classes, skate … Whatever it is that they move.
– Limit the time to look at a screen: depressed teens often go online to feel less alone, but this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, that can isolate them even more; On the other hand, the time they spend sitting watching a screen is time they spend in a sedentary attitude. Impose a limit on the time they can spend with your mobile or computer and they will have to look for other activities.
– Plan a nutritious and balanced diet: many adolescents neglect their diet and abuse processed products, rich in sugars and refined flours. To avoid this, fill your house with fresh food, plan complete and varied menus , talk with your children about the importance of a good diet, involve them in their preparation, go shopping with them and cook with the family.
– Help him sleep what he needs: adolescents need more sleep than adults, about 9 or 10 hours, but they tend to sleep less because they stay up late. Exercise your adult position, send them to bed when it’s time and help them get enough rest .