It’s both normal and common to have feelings of depression. Those feelings can often be resolved with some extra support from friends or family.
There are things young people experiencing symptoms of depression can do themselves:
This can be a great way to help understand emotions and what triggers these emotions. It can also help to think about alternative solutions to problems.
When we’re feeling down it can be hard to motivate ourselves but try to make a list of things you enjoy. Make sure your son or daughter makes the time to do something they enjoy each day.
A lot of young people pick up their behaviour around alcohol from their parents. If you automatically reach for a drink when feeling down they can pick that up from you. Alcohol or other drugs (including lots of caffeine or other energy boosting drinks) can provide a temporary release, but the after effects often make the problem worse.
Although it may seem difficult, encourage your son or daughter to share how their feeling with someone they trust. It doesn’t have to be yourself, it can be a friend, or another family member. This can help them see alternative ways of thinking about a problem, and helping make them happier in general.
If it’s possible offer for your son or daughter to speak to the family GP. The family doctor is an important first point of contact to discuss a mental health problem or concern. Private counselling is also an option.
In addition to encouraging some of the behaviours mentioned above (healthy eating and exercise, taking time out, talking to someone) there are certain things that you as a parent can do to reduce promote positive mental health and protect against the development of depressive symptoms.
There is a strong link between the quality of the parent-child relationship and young people’s mental health. Your support can have a direct and positive impact on your son or daughter’s mental health.
To build or maintain a positive relationship with your son or daughter:
Encourage your child to spend time with friends and to get involved in extracurricular activities. Positive peer experiences and strong friendships can help prevent depression.
Model positive behaviour, get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, be physically active, model good relationships and positive coping strategies.
Let your son or daughter know you’re there for them without being overly aggressive in your daily probing. Young people may be reluctant to talk to you about their problem situation. Encourage them to talk to someone they can trust as well as seeking professional advice.
Keep an eye out for changes e.g. poor test results, discontinuing activities they have always enjoyed, avoiding friends. You also want to look for certain persistent situations. It you witness eating problems or tiredness that persists everyday for a few weeks, that’s when you should seek professional help.
Some young people find it hard to talk with parents about difficult things. Help them by:
By listening your are immediately showing that you care.
Let them know you’re there for them fully and unconditionally.
You’ve noticed how they seem to be feeling and that you care e.g. ‘I’m worried that you seem so upset at the moment’.
Try not present them with a series of questions. “When did this happen, why didn’t you come to me sooner? Try to ask open-ended questions e.g. ‘Is there something troubling you?’
Young people sometimes want to talk without hearing advice. Save suggestions for another time.
Be fair and consistent and think before you react. Resist any urge to criticise or make judgement. The important thing is that your son/daughter is communicating.
Even if their feelings/worries seem silly or irrational to you, acknowledge the pain and sadness he/she is feeling. Otherwise they may feel you’re not taking the situation seriously.
If you suspect that your son or daughter is depressed you should contact your GP. If necessary, they can then make a referral to your local child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), if they’re under 18 years-old or which can offer more specialist care .
Talk to others who know them. If they’re school-age, contact the school to find how they are doing.
Early diagnosis and treatment are essential. Treatment is designed to improve the symptoms, prevent the illness from returning and help the young person to lead a normal life. Families play an important role throughout the entire process.
Talk therapies and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) have been show to be effective in treating depression. Treatment may also include the use of antidepressant medication in some cases but you and your son or daughter should discuss this together and with your doctor.
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