Did you know that the third cause of death among teenagers and young adults is suicide? This shocking statistic was released by the CDC recently and just shows why we cannot ignore teenage depression because that is often at the root of these tragic events. The other alarming statistic is that only about 20% of teenagers actually seek treatment when they are depressed. It is obviously a largely hidden problem.
Let us start with a worst case scenario. You may be alarmed if you discover that there are warning signs that your teen may be thinking of suicide. You might notice some strange behavior when your teen starts to greet friends as if it was the last time and similarly you might catch him giving away some personal possessions.
There may be talk of hypothetical events after his death or the fact that he might be remembered with affection after his death. You might discover that your teen is looking for ways to actually commit suicide and investigating what is the best possible way and being quite knowledgeable about weapons, barbiturates and so on.
Talking or even joking about death like this is not normal behavior for a teenager so it may be a sign that this is something much more serious than your normal teenage depression. If the worst case scenario is a possibility, you can seek help from suicide helplines.
Let us look at a more cheerful scenario where teenage depression is just part of growing up and there are no indications at all that he or she is thinking of suicide. They are just down and the first thing is NOT to start peppering them with questions as teenagers generally hate that sort of intrusion.
But we can tell them that we are on hand when and if they need us without prying into everything which can be intensely private for a teen.
We need to be aware of the dangers of internet addiction if they are spending hours locked away in their room with only a computer for company. We have to make efforts to persuade him to do other activities as existing in a cyber reality is no substitute for real relationships and living life to the full.
Once we see the signs, we can try to communicate but above all to listen. There is no need to lecture or criticize and the worst possible thing is to try and talk a teenager out of depression. We are not psychotherapists.
If you really feel that your teenager is depressed, then you need to get professional help. If it is a passing phase and there are other problems with teenage discipline you may like to see how a child behavior modification program can assist you in giving him strategies to cope. This particular program was written by a qualified behavior therapist who was a parent himself.