How to tell if your teen is depressed or suicidal
It isn’t always easy to tell when a teen is struggling with depression or just normal teenage growing pains. Teenagers face many pressures (social, academic, family) and are often in the midst of figuring out who they are and where they fit in. When a teen begins to struggle with clinical depression, it impacts every aspect of their life, and goes well beyond “moodiness.” The good news: depression in teens is treatable, and parents can learn to identify when help is needed.
Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
Sadness or hopelessness
Irritability, anger, or hostility
Tearfulness or frequent crying
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Poor school performance
Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Restlessness and agitation
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
Fatigue or lack of energy
Unexplained aches and pains
Thoughts of death or suicide
When trying to figure out if your teen is just “being a teenager” or whether they are depressed, consider how long the symptoms have been going on, how severe they are, and how different your child is acting from their usual self.
Teens struggling with serious depression often think about or talk about suicide. These thoughts should always be taken very seriously, as increasing numbers of teenage suicide attempts are successful.
Suicide warning signs to watch for include:
Talking or joking about committing suicide
Saying things like: “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”
Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more or finally pay attention.”)
Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide
Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
Giving away prized possessions
Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves
If you suspect that your teen may be suicidal, take immediate action. For 24-hour suicide prevention and support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
For more information about teen depression and suicide, visit the following resources: