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How to Help a Depressed Teenager

By Edited Dec 15, 2015 2 5
Depressed Teenager
Credit: Laura Henry via Flickr

Life isn’t always easy. This much is a fact – and sometimes the difficulty just gets inside your head in the wrong way. It happens all the time, even at times where it seems that there is no reason for the pressure to suddenly kick in. Depression isn’t exactly the most overt of things to deal with, ranking way below “missing arm” on the list of things that are easy to notice. Throw in the fact that depression has a lot (with a lot of emphasis on “a lot”) of possible causes, and that people (especially teenagers) can’t properly identify or deal with the cause(s) of their depression, and it’s a sour pickle that pops up.

Dealing with depressed people like teenagers requires a bit more delicacy than dealing with not – so – depressed people. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t possible to create a general formula for handling depressed people, but we, being the stubborn humans that we are, have tried to do so anyway, and came up with a few safe tips.

A big step to start with is to stop with the “snap out of it” talks. Telling depressed people to snap out of depression is two things: first, it is common to the point of illogic, and second, it is utterly and irrevocably pointless. I have personally struggled with depression (not quite as severe a case as some could say) and have heard this phrase a lot more than I’d care to. Personally, and as many I know would agree, the phrase is the equivalent of telling a drowning man to stop drowning. Telling a depressed person to stop being depressed not only contributes absolutely nothing meaningful, it also creates a bit of frustration in the same way that a drowning person will get mad at a bystander calling out for him to stop drowning instead of helping him out. “Oh, I could just stop being depressed! Why haven’t I tried that before – except I have and it didn’t work – why did you think I was still depressed, huh?”

On the plus side, that might turn the person from depression to anger for a brief moment. On the minus side of things, it might lead to that anger going into something terrible like a harsh breakdown, or hopefully not a violent outburst.

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Another thing to keep in mind is related to that said possible switching between depression to anger and any other shade of emotion. Wondering how that switch is possible? It’s because depression is informitas – that is, it has no set form and manifests differently from person to person. Depression sometimes shows itself as a person being sad (which is probably the image that pops into your head upon hearing the word) or sometimes a total, lethargic silence. Sometimes it becomes anger, and sometimes it is displayed as the lack of emotion. Keep this in mind and remember that dismissing depression because it doesn’t fit the image in your mind does wonders for the depressed person (heavy sarcasm intended). The last thing they need is a person telling them that they’re faking it.

How to recognize depression in teenagers



Aug 7, 2014 10:52am
Hi, I'm Matt, I'm new here. I commend you on your article, well done. Sad, too often teenagers feel like the weight of the whole world is on them, and it will never change. I lost a family member who took their own life. We need to recognize and talk about this.
Aug 14, 2014 1:16am
I agree Matt. Growing up through my teenage years I lost a few mates through depression. Identifying it and coming from the right angle to help them is what we all need to work on.
Aug 13, 2014 9:21am
Great article. I think telling a depressed teenager (or anyone who's depressed, for that matter) to "snap out of it" is probably the worst thing a person could say.
Aug 14, 2014 1:16am
Yes it makes it alot worse. I remember it did for me.
Sep 25, 2014 3:39am
This is very useful! I feel like most adults, especially once they are over 30, forget what it was like to be a teen.
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