teen depression

Younger people are more at risk for depression due to COVID-19 and national lockdowns. Image: Adobe Stock

Mood disorders: Know the signs and ways to help your teen

Depression under younger people is increasing due to COVID-19 and national lockdowns.

teen depression

Younger people are more at risk for depression due to COVID-19 and national lockdowns. Image: Adobe Stock

The prevalence of mood difficulties among young people due to the disruptions caused by Covid-19 and lockdowns is increasingly becoming a global concern.

“One in eight young people are at risk of developing a mental disorder, with mood and anxiety disorders being the most prevalent,” ADvTECH brand academic manager Dr Jacques Mostert, recently said in a statement.

Mostert holds a PhD in Psychology of Education and is globally renowned in his field.

Teen depression: The stats

According to Mostert, an estimated 24% of teens between the ages of 11 to 19 suffer from depression caused by the home environment, while 25% are subject to cyber-bullying and loneliness, and 80% report a sense of isolation that causes them to feel depressed.

“It is very important to understand the signs of depression, so that action can be taken timeously should concerns about the mental wellbeing of a child arise,” said Mostert.

How to recognise the signs of teen depression:

Teachers and parents can recognise the onset of depression when a sudden behaviour change becomes apparent and continues for at least three weeks or longer.

Lack of energy, irritability

These include an atypical lack of energy, becoming increasingly irritable and agitated without a rational explanation, and a sense of being down in the dumps for no reason.

Withdrawal

According to Mostert some adolescents may withdraw from friends and family over a sustained period, adding that this is especially concerning if this is atypical of the normal interactions of the teen.

Concentration

“Another red flag is the inability to concentrate in class where ADHD or other non-neurotypical difficulties are not present, as well as regularly failing to complete classroom and homework assignments in time or often being late to class because of feeling overwhelmed.

Defiant behaviour

Mostert said this coupled with unusually defiant behaviour towards teachers and other school staff, especially if this is non-typical behaviour, may indicate that the teen is experiencing difficulties with mood and affect.

Talk of death and suicide

“Finally, a loss of future-mindedness, or talk about death or suicide, engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviour (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or cutting, for example) are clear signs of the teen suffering from mood difficulties or a possible mood disorder.

“Not all of the above need to be present, but if there is a discernable and drastic change in a young person’s behaviour which continues for a period of several weeks or longer, intervention is necessary,” Mostert said.

Four steps parents and teachers can take to help teens:

1. DEVELOPING COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Parents of teenagers should develop the habit of listening with empathy and not give in to the easier way out of lecturing. However, it must also be said that parents should be gentle yet persistent when it comes to holding realistic expectations of their child.

2. AVOIDING NEGATIVE TECHNIQUE STRATEGIES

Punishment, sarcasm, disparagement, and passive-aggression is a way of affirming the depressed teenager’s belief of not being worthy or a valued member of the family or society.

Parents must be willing to be vulnerable and acknowledge their own and their teenager’s feelings, especially at a time of disruption such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. NOT LOWERING EXPECTATIONS OR GIVING UNEARNED REWARDS

Realistic and earned rewards is one of the most important tools in a parent’s approach to supporting their depressed child. The sense of having earned a reward, and receiving acknowledgement for an aspect of their life they find significant affirms a sense of value.

However, the opposite is also true. Unearned praise leaves the teenager with a feeling of inauthenticity and affirms their already negative self-perception.

4. PLANNING FOR EARNED SUCCESS

Activities that are of interest often fall by the wayside when teenagers are depressed. Often parents try to arrange and engage in these activities as a panacea to their teenager’s depression. However, this may exacerbate the young person’s feeling of worthlessness.

Parents should find novel and interesting activities that may lead to earned success. This may include DIY activities around the house or asking for help with a specific app or technology in which, when success is achieved, due praise is earned.

‘Trust your gut’ as to when professional help is needed

“Most importantly, parents should trust their gut,” Mostert says.

“If your teenager insists that nothing is wrong, despite a prolonged period of depressed mood or being diagnosed with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, parents should trust their instincts and seek help.

“Should the above techniques not bring about an improvement in the mental wellbeing, parents should seek advice from their medical practitioner or a psychiatrist.”