Why we need to understand teen depression
Teenagers are experiencing a transitory period in their life; Changes in their schools, changes in their friend groups, and especially changes in themselves. Such complex circumstances would be confusing to many adults, let alone younger minds. And to cope with this ever-shifting internal landscape, many teens learn to compartmentalise their lives. They may be all smiles when playing with their friends but down and dejected once they arrive home or suffering in silence in school while putting on a strong front with family. In any case, depression can creep in silently while parents and guardians remain none the wiser.
It does not help that the symptoms of depression can be difficult to spot, particularly in teens. Common emotional symptoms like sadness and worthlessness, or loss of interest in their usual activities, can be easily missed or even concealed. Changes in behaviour tied to depression may also be effectively invisible. A teen experiencing insomnia may lie in bed all night but not get a wink of sleep. Similarly, a teen socially isolating themselves may simply avoid talking about friends altogether. Even so, there are ways to potentially identify these signs.
Parents can often feel obligated to put on an air of authority in front of their children, but the importance of creating a throughline of open communication cannot be understated. As mentioned before, the signs and symptoms of teen depression are not immediately obvious when viewed from the outside. In contrast, a teen may be acutely aware of their own problems and may even be able to link them to depression themselves. After all, mental health is no longer the stigmatised issue it was in the past and is frequently discussed both in schools and online.
Still, teens can find it awkward to talk about something so personal, even with the closest of family. It is often up to the parent to broach the topic, to tell them that it is ok to talk about such issues without fear of judgement. A simple “How are you feeling?” or “Have you been depressed lately?” may not incite much of a response on the first pass but can signal that your teen can confide in you in the future. Some may also find family therapy sessions fruitful to help start a dialogue in a safe space.
Look out for social and behavioural changes
While the best case would be for a teen to open up to their guardians, that does not always happen. In these cases, it can be helpful for guardians to be vigilant in looking out for possible triggers of depression or changes in behaviour. A triggering event can include a change of school or class, separation from friends or loved ones, conflicts both outside and in the home, ‘poor’ performance in academics or competitions, and so on. It is important not to downplay the emotional effect of any of these events. They may seem mundane to an outsider but could be given extreme importance by the teen themselves. While depression does not always arise from a single triggering event, identifying potential triggers is always a good start.
Aside from triggers, one might observe changes in the teen’s lifestyle. Obvious changes should be noted, like crying over things more often, skipping social or extra-curricular activities, or exam scores suddenly slipping dramatically. Subtler changes are common as well. Spending less and less time with their friends, loss of appetite, or generally looking more tired even with the same workload.
Self-harm is a particularly serious sign of depression but not always apparent. Those suffering from depression can hide their self-harm due to the fear of rejection or even punishment. In all cases, it is important not to judge or blow up at the teen but rather remain calm, acknowledge their emotional pain, express that you take their issues seriously, and seek professional help as soon as possible.
Should you believe that your child is suffering from depression, we at A Space Between can help. Our experienced private psychotherapists in Singapore work with clients of all ages, providing a range of services, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, family therapy sessions and group session therapy. For more information on our services and therapists available, you can find out more at https://www.aspacebetween.com.sg/therapist-directory.
No matter what you’re facing, perhaps our website can offer up some solace or comfort. Know that you’re not alone, and that there is help available. This can be hard to keep in mind if you haven’t quite found the right support system. While it’s definitely not easy to find the right fit—whether you’re looking for a support group or a mental health provider—with diligence, it’s totally possible.
If you are a therapist, life coach or counsellor looking to join our growing community, head over to book a tour once you have learnt about the plans we offer. At A Space Between, there is a ready league of providers you can network with. With professionals from various backgrounds and therapy practices, there are bound to be the ones you can connect with. Private practice does not have to be lonely.