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Depression is a growing problem for adolescents

Adolescence is a time for young people to have a healthy start in life. However, the number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is increasing, and this is only getting worse as the pandemic continues.

Poor mental health in adolescence is more than feeling blue. It can impact many areas of a teen’s life. Youth with poor mental health may struggle with school and grades, decision making, and their health.
Mental health problems in youth often go hand-in-hand with other health and behavioral risks. Some of these may include an increased risk of drug use, experiencing violence, and higher risk sexual behaviors that may lead to HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancy. Because many health behaviors and habits are established in adolescence that will carry over into adult years, it is very important to help youth develop good mental health.

Mental health “red flags”

  • Excessive sleeping, beyond usual teenage fatigue, which could indicate depression or substance​ abuse; difficulty in sleeping, insomnia, and other sleep disorders
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes
  • Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite, which could indicate an eating disorder
  • Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger that are sharply out of character and could indicate psychological, drug, or sexual problems

How you can help

  • Just listen. Avoid lecturing, criticizing or judging if they open up to you.
  • Be gentle but persistent. And trust your instincts. If your teen shuts you out, don’t give up. Let them know you are concerned and are ready to listen when they need you to.
  • Take their feelings seriously. It may be tempting to brush off their concerns as silly or irrational, but their emotions are real and important.

Depression is highly treatable. If you suspect your child is dealing with depression or other mental health concern, let your child’s doctor know. They can connect you to the resources and treatment your child needs.

If you believe your child is having thoughts of suicide, don’t wait. Call 911 if your child is in immediate danger. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 for advice and support.