I’ve had many emails asking about how a parent or teacher can tell if their teen or student is depressed.
Here are some signs you can look for. If they last more than two weeks you should take them seriously and consider seeking professional help.
1. Loss of appetite or sudden increase in the amount the child eats. This is only a symptom if the teen was a regular eater before.
2. Change in sleep behavior. Insomnia or wanting to sleep all the time may indicate depression. Nightmares and restless sleep can also be symptoms.
3. Sudden bad grades when the teen had been doing better.
4. Withdrawal. The teen withdraws from friends and family for no apparent reason.
5. Talk of death or dying. This is serious even if it’s done in a joking manner.
6. Change for the worse in personal habits. Wearing dirty clothes when used to be concerned with appearance. Quits brushing teeth or combing hair.
7. Teen suddenly starts giving away possessions that they consider important. This sign is very high on the suicidal indicator list and must be taken seriously.
Signs of depression are only signs if they cannot be explained by other reasonable events. For example, a sudden loss of appetite is not a sign of depression when the person is trying to lose five pounds so she can fit into her prom dress. Suddenly giving away possessions may not be a sign of depression or suicidal thoughts if the reason is to send them to others who have lost everything to a flood, hurricane or other type of disaster. Evaluate what else may be causing the behavior. If there are realistic explanations then you may not be dealing with depression.
If you are concerned about your teen, talk it over with the school counselor or seek private professional help for your teen.
Two sources for immediate help are:
National Depression and Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
Teen & Parent Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-3000