If your teen is between ages 12 and 18, talk to a doctor about screening (testing) for depression. More than 1 in 10 teens has some signs of depression.
Depression is serious, but it can be treated with counseling or medicine. Most teens with depression don’t get the help they need.
Talk to your teen’s doctor about screening for depression, even if you don’t see signs of a problem. Find out what services are available (like therapy or counseling), in case your teen needs follow-up care.
What happens during a depression screening?
The doctor will ask your teen questions about her feelings and behaviors. The doctor may ask her how often she:
Feels hopeless or sad
Has low energy or feels tired during the day
Has trouble paying attention at school
Eats too much or has trouble eating
Screening for depression usually takes about 5 minutes, and can be done as part of your teen’s yearly checkup.
What is depression?
Teen depression is a serious mental health problem. If your child is depressed, he may:
Feel sad or irritable (easily upset) most of the time
Lose interest in favorite activities
Have aches and pains for no reason
Sleep too much or be unable to sleep
Eat too much or have trouble eating
Use drugs or alcohol
Think about death or suicide
It’s normal for teens to have mood swings. It can be hard to tell if your child is just feeling down or if he’s depressed — that’s why it’s so important to have your teen screened for depression.
Depression can happen to anyone. It’s not your fault or your teen’s fault. Some experiences may make it more likely that a teen will develop depression, like:
Dealing with a big loss, like a death or divorce in the family
Living with someone who is depressed
Having another mental health problem, like anxiety or an eating disorder
Feeling stressed at school or at home
Having a family history of depression
Teen girls are more likely to get depressed than teen boys.
What if the doctor finds signs of depression?
If your child is showing signs of depression, the doctor will:
Refer your teen to a therapist or doctor with special training in helping young people with emotional and behavioral problems
Talk about medicines or treatments that could help your teen with depression.
Order blood tests to check for other health problems
Make sure to include your teen when you make any decisions about treatment.
Protect your teen’s mental health. Talk to your teen and your teen’s doctor about depression.
Ask the doctor to screen your child for depression, and if you are worried about your teen, tell the doctor. Find out what services are available in case your teen needs treatment.
What about cost?
Screening for depression is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, your teen may be able to get screened at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider.
Write down any concerns you have.
Keep track of your teen’s actions and words that make you think she might be depressed. If you see a change in your child’s behavior, make a note about the change and when it happened. Include details like:
How long the behavior has been going on
How often the behavior happens
How serious you think it is
You can share these notes with your teen’s doctor. You can also use them to start a conversation with your teen.
Watch for signs that your teen may be thinking about suicide
Most people who are depressed don’t attempt suicide, but depression can increase the risk of suicide and suicide attempts. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24.
These behaviors may be signs your teen is thinking about suicide:
Talking about wanting to kill or hurt himself
Taking dangerous risks like driving recklessly
Spending less and less time with friends and family
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Talking about feeling hopeless, or very angry
If your child is showing some or all of these warning signs, get help right away.
Make a list with your teen of other people she can go to with problems or questions, like a teacher, guidance counselor, or adult friend. Point out ways she can get information anonymously (without giving her name).
Finally, remind your teen that you are always there if she wants to talk.