Teenage depression: Prevention begins with parental support
Teenage depression is a serious health concern that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. Although there's no sure way to prevent teenage depression, these strategies might help.
Offer unconditional support
A strong parent-child relationship can help prevent depression. To build — or maintain — a positive relationship with your child:
- Set aside time each day to talk
- Encourage your child to express his or her feelings
- Praise his or her strengths, whether it's in academics, music, athletics, relationships or other areas
- Offer positive feedback when you notice positive behavior
- Respond to your child's anger with calm reassurance rather than aggression
If your child is reluctant to talk, spend time in the same room. Even if you're not talking, a caring attitude can speak volumes.
Foster friendship and social support
Positive peer experiences and strong friendships can help prevent depression. Encourage your child to spend time with supportive friends. Playing team sports or taking part in other organized activities might help by boosting your child's self-esteem and increasing his or her social support network.
At the same time, be alert to the possible issues associated with early dating. Even typical romantic experiences, such as flirting and dating, can be challenging for teens — and might contribute to symptoms of depression.
Encourage physical activity
Regular physical activity — regardless of the level of intensity — might play a role in reducing teenage depression and anxiety.
For adolescents, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends one hour or more of physical activity a day. This includes aerobic activities — such as running, swimming, walking and jumping rope — and muscle-strengthening activities, such as climbing a rock wall or lifting weights.
Promote good sleep
A good night's sleep can help your child feel his or her best, both physically and emotionally. In a recent study, teens whose parents enforced a bedtime of 10 p.m. or earlier were significantly less likely to become depressed than were teens who went to bed at midnight or later. Also consider other principles of good sleep — such as following a consistent bedtime routine and limiting screen time just before bed.
Keep in mind that the relationship between sleep and depression goes both ways. Lack of sleep might boost the risk of depression — and depression itself can make it harder to sleep.
Monitor screen time
Some studies suggest a connection between screen time and depression. It's possible that screen time could have a negative effect by interfering with sleep or taking up time your teen could be spending with friends and being active.
However, content could also play a role. Use of the Internet and social networking sites could expose your teen to cyberbullying. Movies and TV shows that feature idealized characters and situations could cause your teen to gauge himself or herself against an impossible ideal. Repeated exposure to negative or violent content might aggravate feelings of depression, perhaps by promoting a negative or fearful view of the world.
On the flip side, some research suggests that reading during adolescence might have the opposite effect — perhaps offering a buffer against depression.
Get treatment early
Seek help at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from worsening. Maintain ongoing treatment, if recommended, even after symptoms let up, or have regular therapy sessions to help prevent a relapse of depression symptoms.
Family-based depression prevention programs — often using a type of psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy — can help, especially when there's a family history of depression. During therapy, a mental health provider might help you and your child:
- Learn about depression
- Develop skills to handle stress in a positive way
- Communicate with each other more effectively
- Understand the effect that stress and depression can have on a person's life
Consult a mental health provider about the options and what might work best for your child.
Last updated: September 3rd, 2015