Recognizing Signs of Depression

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Below is information about how to recognize depression in young adults. As fellow members or adult volunteers, we need to be aware of the mental health concerns facing our girls. The information provided below is taken from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and Help Guide.

Major risk factors for suicide include:

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Misuse and abuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Mental disorders, particularly depression and other mood disorders
  • Access to lethal means
  • Knowing someone who died by suicide, particularly a family member
  • Social isolation
  • Chronic disease and disability
  • Lack of access to behavioral health care

Many rebellious and unhealthy behaviors or attitudes in teenagers can be indications of depression. The following are some the ways in which teens “act out” in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain:

Problems at school. Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.

Running away. Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.

Drug and alcohol abuse. Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.

Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.

Smartphone addiction. Teens may go online to escape their problems, but excessive smartphone and Internet use only increases their isolation, making them more depressed.

Reckless behavior. Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving and binge drinking.

Teen depression is also associated with a number of other mental health problems, including eating disorders and self-injury. The first step is to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.

How to communicate with a depressed teen:

Focus on listening, not lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. You’ll do the most good by simply letting your teen know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally.

Be gentle but persistent. Don’t give up if they shut you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Even if they want to, they may have a hard time expressing what they’re feeling. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.

Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t try to talk your teen out of depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Well-meaning attempts to explain why “things aren’t that bad” will just come across as if you don’t take their emotions seriously. Simply acknowledging the pain and sadness they are experiencing can go a long way in making them feel understood and supported.

Trust your gut. If your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. If your teen won’t open up to you, consider turning to a trusted third party: a school counselor, favorite teacher, or a mental health professional. The important thing is to get them talking to someone.

The most important thing to do for someone you suspect is depressed is simply to be there. Job’s Daughters is an inclusive space, so let your girls know that they are welcome, wanted, and loved.