How To Help A Teenager With Depression: 2024 Tips & Advice

How To Help A Teenager With Depression
Depression in teenagers poses a unique type of challenge. Photo: odua/Freepik

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According to the World Health Organization,[1] 2.8% of teenagers between the ages of 15-19 years are depressed. The teenage years fall into the phase of development called adolescence.

Adolescence is the phase of gradual transition from being children to being adults and experiencing significant physical, mental, and behavioral changes. They also are exposed to new mental health challenges.

Unlike depression in adults, depression in teenagers poses a unique type of challenge. That is because, for most adolescents, it is the first time they face any mental health condition. This could make it a bit difficult to find out when they have depression.

As an adult, finding out that a teenager you love is depressed can cause a significant level of mental stress, but not to worry, there are solutions for depression in teenagers. This article will shed more light on teenage depression and how to help a teenager with depression.

How To Help With Teenage Depression

  • Talk To Them About It
  • Ask Them About Any Ways You Could Help
  • Play Your Role In Changing Certain Things
  • Take Them To See A Mental Health Professional

How To Help With Teenage Depression

When a teenager close to you has depression, there are things you could do to help. Here are some of them.

Talk To Them About It

Depression may be suspected in a teenager from their change in behavior. However, the only way to confirm that something is wrong would be by talking to them about it. 

Teenagers often tend to feel too embarrassed or scared to talk about such things affecting them. This is because they often get scared of being judged for it which could make it quite difficult to get them to admit that something is wrong. An empathic approach often helps them open up more to reveal what’s wrong.

Ask Them About Any Ways You Could Help

Many times there isn’t much you would be able to do on your own. This is because the cause of their depression may be totally unrelated to you.

However, it is very important to reassure them of your support and show that you’re willing to help. Assuring them of your support would help them open up to you a lot more. It would also help them recover.

Play Your Role In Changing Certain Things

In certain cases where they reveal some things you do that may play a role in their depression, changing those things will help them.

In addition, as a parent, a few changes in the family may be suggested by the therapist during their treatment. Effecting these changes would go a long way in helping their recovery. Not only would this help to play a role in their recovery, but it would also help prevent a recurrence.

Take Them To See A Mental Health Professional

It is important to show them love, care, and understanding. However, taking them to see a professional is the best form of help you can give to a teenager with depression. 

Unfortunately, most teenagers with depression[5] don’t get to receive appropriate care. 

What Is Teenage Depression?

Teenage depression is the presence of depression in a person between the ages of 13 to 19 years. Photo: Mariana Serdynska/Shutterstock

The American Psychiatric Association[2] describes depression as a common mental health condition characterized by persistent low moods that negatively alter a person’s thoughts and behaviors, and may ultimately affect their relationships and reduce their work function. Teenage depression is the presence of depression in a person between the ages of 13 to 19 years. 

In this age group, teenagers begin to experience changes in their bodies. They also experience a change in their perception of themselves, other people, and external events. In that phase, they also get exposed to vices that may contribute to their risk of getting mental health conditions like depression.

It is quite interesting to note that there appears to be a current increase in the rate of depression in teenagers. About 1 out of 5 teenagers would experience depression at some point in their lives before they reach adulthood.

Addressing the unique mental health needs of adolescents requires a special level of care. It is vital to do everything to address these needs because failure to address them could significantly affect their futures.

Symptoms Of Teen Depression

To know how to help a teenager with depression, you would first have to know how depression manifests in them. Confirmation of depression requires the presence of a certain number of symptoms.[3]

The number and type of symptoms present as well as their frequency, also help in determining the severity of the condition. The symptoms also have to be present on most or all days for at least two weeks.

Some of these symptoms of teenage depression are:

  • Persistent low moods
  • Lack of interest in activities they would usually enjoy
  • A feeling of reduced strength
  • Reduced speed of thinking, processing information, and movement
  • An obvious and rapid change in weight and/or appetite
  • Impaired ability to maintain attention
  • A feeling of lack of self-worth and constantly blaming oneself unnecessarily for events
  • In severe cases, they could also have thoughts and attempts of self-harm or suicide

Teen Depression Causes

During their teenage years, a person starts to have new experiences and perceptions of things. This exposes them to new mental health challenges.
However, there are some other things that increase their chances[4] of having depression. These factors may either be a single one-time event or a recurring one. They may also be a constant and persisting factor.

  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Traumatic life events like the loss of a loved one, divorce of parents, etc
  • Long-term disease conditions
  • Abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • The presence of another mental health condition
  • A past episode of depression
  • Family history of depression

Treatments For Teen Depression

Treatments For Teen Depression
The treatment for depression in teenagers involves the use of psychological therapy, and lifestyle modification, with or without medications. Photo: Mike_shots/Shutterstock

Psychological Therapy

May be in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy to help identify and alter behaviors that may contribute to their depression.

Psychoanalytic therapy is also employed, to identify and resolve thought patterns that may be responsible. Psychological therapy also helps to fix relationships that may be strained, which may be the cause of the depression or a result of it. 

Psychotherapy may be used as a standalone treatment in mild treatment, and in combination with drug treatment in moderate and severe depression.

Drug Therapy

The use of drugs is reserved for moderate and severe depression. The group of drugs used are known as antidepressants. It is important to get a prescription from only a licensed professional who would also give guidelines on its use.

Adherence to the medication is essential in treating depression. 

In cases of severe depression and threats of self-harm or suicide, they would need to be admitted into a mental health facility. During admission, careful monitoring is done and compliance with medication is ensured.

There are some factors[6] that could point to an increased risk of self-harm. These include:

  • Previous attempts at self-harm
  • Previous attempts at suicide
  • Access to harmful items like poison
  • Drug abuse
  • Aggressive personality

Generally, the duration of treatment usually depends on the severity of the depression. Symptoms of mild and moderate symptoms often resolve fully within weeks with treatment.

However, in severe depression, the symptoms may persist for longer periods. This would necessitate continuous treatment with drugs to control the symptoms and give them a normal life.


Depression is one of the most common mental health challenges in teenagers. It can cause significant distress in both the teenagers suffering from it, as well as their loved ones. In severe cases, it could also threaten their lives.

However, the good thing is that it can be treated adequately when you seek professional help. So if you have a teenager with depression, there is no need to panic. Reach out to a mental health specialist near you to take you one step closer to finding a solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is teen depression?

It is quite common but under-reported. It is said that about 20% of people will experience depression as teenagers in their lifetimes.

What causes depression in teenagers?

There is no specific cause of depression. However, certain things increase the risk of depression in teenagers. Some of them are physical and emotional abuse, loss of family members, divorce, and drug abuse.

How can I know if a teenager is depressed?

Most times, teenagers with depression wouldn’t reveal it themselves. However, there may be some signs. This includes constant sad appearances, keeping to themselves, interacting less with friends and family members, and loss of appetite.

 Can teen depression kill?

No, depression itself would usually not kill directly. In mild and moderate cases, there is usually very little risk of death. However, in severe depression, there is a high risk of self-harm and death by suicide.

How long does depression last in a teenager?

With adequate treatment, symptoms of depression resolve in most teenagers within weeks. However, without treatment, and also in severe cases, the symptoms could persist for months or even years.

How can I get professional help for a teenager with depression?

Getting help for depression is as easy as walking into a hospital and asking to see a mental health specialist. In certain places, there are also phone numbers you could use to reach out to one and book an appointment. 

+ 6 Sources

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  4. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Teen depression – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2022].
  5. Lewandowski, R.E., Acri, M.C., Hoagwood, K.E., Olfson, M., Clarke, G., Gardner, W., Scholle, S.H., Byron, S., Kelleher, K., Pincus, H.A., Frank, S. and Horwitz, S.M. (2013). Evidence for the Management of Adolescent Depression. Pediatrics, [online] 132(4), pp.e996–e1009. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0600.
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