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Depression is an illness and can affect anyone, no matter what age, gender, intelligence or background.

It is more common in young people if someone in the family has also had depression as well. Depression in twice as common in teenagers, although it can occur in younger children. 4-8% of teenagers will experience depression, therefore, it is likely that your teen will know someone else with depression. Teenage girls are more likely to be diagnosed than boys as often depression within boys presents in a different manner. This means that for boys you might notice a change in behaviour and them becoming more irritable. There is no one cause for why someone might become depressed and sometimes it is a mixture of lots of different things, such as, bullying, difficult peer relationships, big changes, parents separating, feeling isolated or losing someone you care about.

There are also lots of different symptoms that occur when someone is depressed, it is not just being “sad”. Depression can change a young person’s mood making them feel low or irritable, but it can also affect them physically, making them tired, effecting their appetite, or slowing them down. It can make a young person struggle to concentrate, lose interest in things they used to enjoy and on top of all this can leave the young person feeling worthless or even guilty. Depression can also be scary as one in five young people with depression will think about death and dying. For most young people this is a way of wishing the bad feelings would end and does not lead to them harming themselves. However, it is important to seek extra support at these times.

Common symptoms in children before puberty might be:

  • Prolonged sad mood.
  • Loss of interest in normal activities.
  • Withdrawal from home or school.
  • New behaviours such as stealing or bullying.
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns and tiredness.

In 60% of young people you might notice that some other symptoms that don’t fit with depression, common problems that can occur alongside depression include anxiety, self-harm, behaviour problems and substance misuse. Problems in relationships are also common amongst people who have depression. Treating depression is likely to help any other problems you notice but sometimes these problems might need separate treatment too.

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What will help?

50% of young people will recover within 3 – 12 months, and 90% will recover within 2 years. Lots of young people will recover with no treatment, however, treatment can reduce the amount of time someone is depressed for. For 70% of young people depression will come back within 5 years but the chances of this happening are reduced is the young person accesses support in their first episode or if when symptoms start treatment is accessed quickly. There are different types of therapies recommended for young people, such as, CBT, IPT-A and family therapy. There are also certain medications that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist called antidepressants.

When people are depressed, they experience symptoms that make it hard for them to keep doing the things they’re used to doing (e.g. school, homework, seeing friends). These symptoms also impact on the quality of relationships. Remember, depression is an illness that often affects motivation and the quality of your work. Whilst a young person is experiencing depression, they should be allowed some relief from the pressure of performing their social roles at the same level as before depression took over.

Caring for a teenager with depression is difficult. It may seem like they are being lazy or defiant, but they are actually experiencing a loss of motivation and interest in things, and difficulties with concentration and low energy levels. These depression symptoms combine to create difficulties with schoolwork, school attendance, seeing friends, and helping around the house. Relationships can begin to feel strained.

Whilst your young person is in treatment for depression, it is important to give them extra support and recognition for their attempts at work, even if the quality of their work is poor. It is important to maintain boundaries that keep your teenager safe, whilst trying to understand their behaviour in the context of depression.

Whilst your young person is recovering from depression it is important that they try to keep up with some activities both at home, at school and with friends, because it will help them start to feel better. Try to encourage your teenager to engage in as many normal activities as possible, whilst recognising that their performance may not be up to their usual standard.

There will be improvements in interest, motivation and relationships as your young person starts to feel better. Your young person is likely to be blaming themselves for being depressed and feeling guilty about all the problems that depression brings. It is important not to pressurise them in to feeling ‘well’ again, even though you will all be feeling frustrated.

Things will improve, stay hopeful.