You’ve cleared one huge hurdle and identified possible depression or suicidal thoughts/actions in your teen But how do you support them now? Should you camp at the foot of your teens bed and take their shoelaces “just in case”? Let’s look at different ways to give support by ACTING and not REACTING to the situation.
Have an honest, forthright conversation with your teen. Don’t be accusatory, but gently ask if your child is thinking about suicide. Sometimes teens just need to talk, and getting out their angst helps. Usually a teen is glad to talk, and it can become the turning point. Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away.
See A Doctor. Make an appointment for your teen to see the family physician for a depression screening. Be prepared to give your doctor specific information about your teen’s depression symptoms, including how long they’ve been present, how much they’re affecting your child’s daily life, and any patterns you’ve noticed. The doctor should also be told about any close relatives who have ever been diagnosed with depression or other mental health disorders. As part of the depression screening, the doctor will give your teenager a complete physical exam and take blood samples to check for medical causes of your child’s symptoms.
Be understanding. Living with a depressed teenager can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation, or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Your teen is suffering, so do your best to be patient and understanding. Of course, the rules are still the rules, and depression and suicidal thoughts should NEVER be an excuse for your teen to get away with something.
Encourage physical activity. Encourage your teenager to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of depression, so find ways to incorporate it into your teenager’s day. Something as simple as walking the dog or going on a bike ride can be beneficial.
Encourage social activity. Isolation only makes depression worse, so encourage your teenager to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your teen out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art class.
Stay involved in treatment. Make sure your teenager is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your child takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your teen’s condition, and call the doctor if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.
Learn about depression. Just like you would if your child had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression so that you can be your own “expert.” The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed teen. Encourage your teenager to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on his or her condition can help a depressed teen realize that he or she is not alone, giving your child a better understanding of what he or she is going through.
If you, or someone you know is depressed, or suicidal, there is help out there.
|Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255|
|National Suicide Prevention Lifeline|