If you are a parent or guardian of a teenager, you know how much of a rollercoaster these years can be. It’s a fast and furious ride full of unexpected twists and turns even before we get into the topic of teenage mental health. Unfortunately, recent studies show that mental health challenges are becoming a very common concern for teens in America. To that end, this month our Bedford doctors accepting new patients (locations also in Boyd, Benbrook and Lewisville) are sharing five ways that parents and caregivers can help teens better manage their depression.
1: Get Educated on Depression Signs & Symptoms
The number one tip we encourage parents to embrace is educating themselves on the signs and symptoms of depression. It’s important to know what depression looks and sounds like so that you can identify it early. The following is a list of those most common to teens:
- Increased irritability
- Excessive need for reassurance and/or validation
- Obsessive preoccupation with failures (real or imagined)
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness
- Unexplained bouts of crying
- Difficulty focusing
- Lack of energy
- Social isolation
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Lack of care for personal appearance and/or hygiene
In some cases, symptoms may also include self-harm and thoughts of suicide. It is critical to treat all suggestions of self-harm and suicide as serious and call 911 immediately. The emergency response team will get him or her the specialized help that is needed. You or your teen can also text the word “safe” along with your current location (address, city, state) to 4HELP (44357). This will get you directions to the nearest youth Safe Place location as well as open a secure text chat line with a trained counselor.
2: Find a Doctor Your Teen Trusts
Helping your teen find a primary care physician that he or she trusts is beneficial for both their mental and physical health. It’s important to build out that “village” who helps you raise your child well before they venture into adulthood so that they have trustworthy resources to go to for advice. This can also help give your doctor the opportunity to know your teen’s health history and have a baseline to refer to when changes occur.
Encourage your teen to do a little bit of research on the different options of local pediatricians and family doctors within your community. Clinic websites often offer profiles on their medical teams which can be helpful. If you live in the West Texas area, Your Family Medical has Bedford doctors accepting new patients (as well as in our other three locations: Boyd, Benbrook and Lewisville). We encourage you to call ahead and schedule a new patient consultation to create a time for your teen to ask some questions and see if it’s a good fit.
4: Avoid Harsh Criticism or Oversimplification
Depression is not the same thing as teenage rebellion or “moodiness.” It’s a clinically diagnosed condition that requires treatment. Criticizing your teen for having a poor attitude or oversimplifying the solution will make the situation more difficult. If your teen has been diagnosed with depression, it’s important to make an effort to modify your approach.
When you notice your teen exhibiting symptoms of depression, try asking them how you can help. Let them guide the process if they are willing. If they are working with a counselor, he or she may be able to give your teen some suggestions for including you in their treatment as well.
3: Offer a Variety of Resources
In addition to finding your teen a trustworthy and helpful primary care physician and a mental health professional, we recommend a variety of independent resources as well. Chances are that you know your teen’s communication style and enough about his/her preferences to know what types of tools would be most appealing.
The great news is that technology has allowed our world to have a wide variety of options to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started on your search:
- PHQ-9: A simple screening tool for depression in teens
- TeensHealth: FAQ’s about a variety of mental health topics that apply to teens
- Mindfulness for Teens: Resources (including videos, guided meditations, a mobile-friendly app and more) created to provide teens with education and resources to better manage their life stress in a holistic manner
- Suicide Hotlines: A list of state and county-specific suicide hotlines
- Podcasts for Mental Health: A list of encouraging, informative and relevant podcasts for teens about mental health
5: Be Patient
Change takes time. Your teen will need to learn how to change the way he or she responds to the thoughts, feelings and narratives associated with depression. Be patient and consistently supportive. Help your teen find the right resources and trust the process. Even more importantly, encourage your teen to be patient (and gentle) with themself through it all, too.
General Practitioner Bedford TX
If you suspect that your teen may be wrestling with depression, don’t wait to contact your family doctor. Getting him or her the support they need is the key to success. The team at Your Family Medical wants you to know that you and your teen don’t need to fight this alone – we understand the challenges of battling mental health challenges and we are here for you! Get in touch to learn more today.