Trust your gut feeling – you know when something’s just not right.
Recognising “being a hormonal, moody teenager” or suffering from depression could usefully be described as the difference between bouts of grumpy behaviour, compared to a deep unhappiness over time, with a significant lack of interest in anything at all, even the things that they love.
Don’t ignore worrying symptoms, and just hope that they will go, or that it is ‘just a phase’. Talk to your child about the signs of depression that you’ve noticed and voice your concerns in a non-judgmental way. Let them know you will listen to what they are feeling, and that you will not make judgement on these feelings.
Avoid asking too many questions, do not try to give solutions. Just listen and empathise. Make them feel listened to and understood, and that even if their problems do not seem significant to you, recognise that they are significant to them.
Try again another day if they don’t want to talk about it. Expressing feelings is hard enough at the best of time for teenagers, when they are depressed it’s even more difficult.
If not you, then someone else. Encourage them to talk to a trusted teacher, your GP, advice services which offer help. (I’ll list them)
Make opportunities for keeping in touch with the people they care about. Do stuff such as sports, activities, silly and fun things. Try to get them involved and interested in something.
Ensure as much of the following as possible: regular physical activity, good nutrition and regular sleep (teenagers need 9-10 hours per night).
Seek professional help if nothing is helping and the symptoms are worsening. Involve your child in their treatment choices. If your child doesn’t ‘connect’ with a therapist, for example, find another one.
Be open with siblings, who will know ‘something’ is wrong and also need your time and attention. Asking how they feel and listening to them too is very important.
Look after yourself. Find support for you, be honest about your own feelings. Don’t blame yourself.