The teenage years are complicated as kids are faced with the daunting task of figuring out who they are and the place they have in the world. They are asking questions like, “Who do I want to be?” “How do others perceive me?” or “Where do I belong?” Then, add to that, the layer that nearly a third of all teenagers will battle depression at some point. These struggles reveal two things- teenagers have a lot on their minds and adults need to be equipped to help them.
Signs of teen depression
It’s one thing to know that teenagers can struggle with depression but it’s another thing to know if your teenager is struggling. Here are the signs to look for in your teenager:
- Loss of sleep/eating
- Disinterest in friends and activities
- Engaging in dangerous things like sneaking out, drinking or drugs
- They appear despondent, unfocused or checked out
If you notice any of these signs you need to be ready to have a conversation. The last thing a teenager needs is to feel isolated and alone in their struggle. They need to know that someone is looking out for them and cares enough to reach out to them.
Things you can do to help your teenager
Here are some practical ways you can reach out and help:
- Talk honestly about your observations. Share the signs of depression you have noticed and even address the statistics on teen depression. If you are a youth leader or mentor, talk to the teen’s parents about your concerns as well.
- Share specific things you love about them. Be specific so they know that you really know them and care about them as an individual.
- Help them look to the future. Encourage your teen to look to the future and help them come up with some goals they would like to achieve and the ways to accomplish them.
- Pray for your teenager. Pray that God would give you wisdom and insight and that your teen could understand God’s love for them and the plans he has for their life. (Jeremiah 29:11)
- Seek professional help. It’s never a bad thing to reach out to a trained professional to get their insight and to gain helpful coping mechanisms for depression. Remember, you aren’t a professional counselor so don’t try to take the place of one. Your job is to be a mentor and encourager.
Whether you’re a parent, youth leader or mentor, be on guard for the teenagers in your life and don’t be afraid to talk openly with them about depression. Point them to Jesus and the truth from God’s word that says God is for them and wants to help them carry their burdens.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What signs of depression have you noticed in your teen? On a scale from 1-10, how prevalent are they?
- How have you tried to help your teen with depression in the past? What worked and what didn’t? Explain.
- Do you see value in having a direct and honest conversation with your teen about your observations? Explain. What do you fear in doing that?
- Is there a different way a youth leader/mentor should approach this kind of conversation than a parent would? Explain.
- Make a list of things you admire and appreciate about your teen. How will you share those with them?
- Read Jeremiah 29:11. How can you use this verse to encourage your teenager?
- Why do you think talking to your teen about future goals and aspirations is helpful?
- Why is professional counseling important to the process? How can you go about finding the appropriate resources in your community?
- If a youth leader/mentor, what’s the best approach for sharing your concerns with a parent?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.