The topic of depression is all too familiar for middle and high school students.
One in four parents say their child knows a peer or classmate with depression, and 1 in 10 says their child knows a peer or classmate who has died by suicide.
Unfortunately, among people ages 10 to 24 years old, the suicide rate climbed 56% between 2007 and 2017.
So, it is critical that parents know the signs of depression and can help their child in a timely manner.
In a recent poll, 40% of parents said that they struggle to differentiate between normal mood swings and signs of depression in their teen.
How do you differentiate mood swing from depression?
- Severity. Symptoms of teen depression encompass changes in mood (anger, sadness, irritability), behaviors (sleeping or eating more or less than usual, taking drugs or alcohol, acting out; withdrawing from friends and family), feelings (loneliness, insecurity, apathy), thoughts (hopelessness, worthlessness, thoughts of suicide), and perceptual disturbances (pain, hallucinations). The more pronounced these symptoms, the more likely that the problem is depression and not a passing mood.
- Duration. Any notable deterioration in behavior or mood that lasts two weeks or longer, without a break, may indicate major depression. Children and adolescents can also suffer Dysthymic Disorder, or minor depression. In this type of presentation, symptoms can appear for more days than not, for at least one year.
- Domains. Problems noticed in several areas of a teen’s functioning — at home, in school, and in interactions with friends — may indicate a mood disorder rather than a bad mood related to a particular situation.
What else can parents do?
- Recognize the symptoms
- Parents might also talk with their preteen or teen about identifying a "go-to" adult who can be a trusted source if they are feeling blue.
You can find more information about how to recognize and prevent depression in youths through the following organizations: The Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative.