This is an important issue and it's going to be hard to write this as we are currently going through this with one of our teenagers. There is so much information about teen depression and suicide out there it can be overwhelming. Is my teen depressed? Are they just being a normal teenager? How do I tell the difference? Is this my fault? What do I do now? And then that awful feeling that you thought you did everything right or you know you didn't and realize that at some point you have failed your child and let them down. Please remember that teenage depression can be a chemical imbalance and instead of feeling guilty or responsible (even if you are) the most important thing you can do is GET HELP for your teen.If you think they are suicidal call immediately The people that answer the hotlines are trained and very helpful in a crisis situation.
Teens and preteens can be very moody and emotional by nature. They can be hostile, angry, selfish, sweet, loving, helpful all in the same 10 minutes. Especially in my experience with pre teen girls. You will wish they were still cute squishy babies or fun toddlers, there will be times you wonder where the sweet child who used to cuddle you went and who is this person screaming they hate me all the time. Some parents will be in complete denial that this can happen to their child, this was me. I took for granted that my teenager was a happy, well adjusted, honor roll student who had always rolled with the punches life threw at her. It wasn't until we took her in for a constant stomach ache that we figured out she was depressed. I failed to notice the sadness, weight loss and inability to enjoy simple things she used to love. And we are super close and talk about everything and have always been able to overcome anything. It helped her so much having our doctor explain what was going on in her brain and that it was a chemical issue not something she did wrong or could have prevented (I somewhat disagree with this). Our issue was too much stress and her brain not being able to keep up with all the pressure she was under from school, friends, family and just life in general. She has had several friends that have been suicidal and had one close friend that committed suicide. This person had been a mentor to her and I have no doubt that her death set in motion what would eventually cause her depression. If I could go back we would have gotten her into therapy right after that happened.
Emotions during the preteen/ teenage years are so strong and just like when they are toddlers they may not know how to handle such strong emotions/feelings. Super highs and lows are completely normal and most teenagers are able to deal with these. Then there are the teenagers who cannot handle the strong emotions and pressures of life under even the best circumstances. If your family is going through a serious life change such as divorce, new baby, death in the family, financial struggles, a big move you may want to keep a closer eye on your child for signs they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. This is why I love attachment parenting and the bond it creates, my teen and I are close and she knows that her needs and feelings will be my biggest priority. If you have shown them they are a priority and you are willing to always be there for them (which I have failed at many times) the bond you have will hopefully help you both through this hard time. As we struggle through this daily I am learning what things I can help her and how to handle the times when she just breaks down and feels hopeless. This is the hardest for me to watch, her struggle to see there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel she's in. I've spent countless hours at night trying to figure out things I can do to just help her and the best way I've found is to keep her life as simple as possible. Basic things have become the most important things. Eating, sleeping (at appropriate times) and getting her homework done are the things we are taking one at a time. Eating has become a chore for her and this is normal for a teen who is depressed. http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/eating-disorders.
Keeping a food journal and helping them prepare meals and snacks can encourage healthy eating habits to continue. As with any other stressful time in life knowing they aren't at fault and encouraging positive outlets for energy should always be important. Exercise, sports, social activities should continue and be encouraged.
Getting help for your teen should be immediate and continue as long as needed. If you need help knowing what kind of help their pediatrician should be able to help with that. Whether it's therapy, counseling or a support group having an outside person to talk to can really help during this difficult time. For you as well, it's important for the parent/caregiver to have support and someone to talk to. https://www.facebook.com/parentingchildrenandteenswithanxiety
Here are some signs to watch for in your teen that they may be depressed. Please always seek medical advice if you are concerned that your teen is depressed.
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger, or hostility
- Tearfulness and/or frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide