Pre-teen and teen years are marked by a rollercoaster ride of emotions making them difficult to navigate for students, parents, and educators. Emotional ups and downs are often normal for this age group, but can be a warning sign of a more serious mental health condition, like depression. While it’s one of the most common mental illnesses, depression is a leading risk factor for suicide. In a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 44% of teens surveyed reported two or more weeks of feeling sad or hopeless in the last year and 9% had attempted suicide.
It can be challenging to tell the difference between normal teen behavior and depression. So how do you know when it’s something more serious?
The JED Foundation suggests watching for these warning signs:
- Significant changes in eating, sleeping, self-care, or socializing habits
- Sadness and/or withdrawal from social situations, especially if they persist for a while
- Extreme mood swings or irritability
- Seeming much more fearful and/or avoiding certain environments, situations, or social interactions altogether (such as school avoidance)
- Using drugs or alcohol, especially changes in typical patterns of use
- Difficulty with or neglect of basic self-care, personal hygiene, etc.
- Getting in fights or suddenly not getting along with others
- Sudden increase in reckless, impulsive, out-of-control behaviors
- Changes in social media behavior
Most importantly, trust your gut. If you feel like something’s not right, act on it.
For expert tips on talking with your teen about mental health, check out The JED Foundation’s guide, “What to do if you’re Concerned about your Teen’s Mental Health,” which addresses topics including:
- Signs that your teen may be struggling
- Preparing yourself emotionally to have the conversation
- What to say and do during the conversation
- What to do if your teen denies a problem or refuses help but you are still concerned
- How to follow up after the conversation
Understand that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, talking to your teen about their emotions can be difficult, if not impossible. NOAH can help. Our Behavioral Health Counselors are available to talk in-person or via video call and many of them specialize in young adults and/or depression. Schedule an appointment today.
If you feel your teen may be in danger of harming themself or others, go to the nearest emergency room or reach out to any of the crisis resources below:
- Mercy Maricopa Crisis Line: 602-222-9444
- Teen Life Line phone or text: 602-248-TEEN (8336)
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- National Substance Use and Disorder Issues Referral and Treatment Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)