Mt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western AustraliaMt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western Australia

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Adolescent Depression

Julia Pemberton

Registered Psychologist
Perth, Western Australia

Young people experience many different feelings and moods and parents are often unsure about what is normal or when to seek help. Young people can feel depressed for all sorts of reasons and their depression can vary from having moods and feeling a bit 'down', to feeling overwhelming sadness and hopelessness, and at the extreme suicidal.

Most young people have mood swings and times when they feel very unhappy in adolescence, but it is important to be aware that depression occurs in up to 24% of young people. Being 'down' most of the time is not normal. Depression in young people is often not recognised. The type of help and support young people receive and how soon they get this can make a real difference.

Although it is often difficult to communicate with someone who is feeling very low, it is important to acknowledge your child's feelings and let them know you are there for them. Knowing that friends and family really care and are willing to give support can be the first important step towards getting better.

Young people at risk
Depression can affect anyone, but some young people are more likely to become depressed if:

  • a close relative has suffered from depression
  • they have suffered a major life stress or several stresses.

Major life stresses can include family separation, loss of a parent, child abuse, bullying, academic failure, relationship break-up or moving school.

Depression may also be triggered by something that seems relatively minor or occur for no obvious reason.

Signs of depression
A young person with depression may show some of the following signs:

  • loss of interest or enjoyment in usual activities
  • changed eating patterns with weight gain or weight loss
  • sleeping problems
  • low energy levels
  • poor concentration with school work or other things
  • school refusal
  • loss of interest in being with friends
  • not wanting to go out
  • feeling hopeless or worthless
  • being sad or tearful
  • being angry or irritable a lot of the time
  • feeling guilty and to blame for things going wrong
  • increasing drug and alcohol use
  • self-harm
  • not taking care of appearance or hygiene
  • constant headaches, stomach aches and other physical pains
  • carelessness about physical safety
  • having thoughts about being better off dead or that life is not worth living
  • preoccupation with death and suicide

What parents can do
When young people are suffering with depression they are not always able to ask for help and may even refuse your help at times. This can leave you feeling helpless or rejected.

It is important that you:

  • Take time to listen. Create opportunities for this to occur and show that you are available for them.
  • Take their feelings seriously, particularly talk about suicide.
  • Show your support. This doesn't mean that you have to agree with everything your child does or wants to do, but young people need to know that you still love them no matter who they are or what they do.
  • Encourage them to seek help. Provide a list of contacts for them to choose from.
  • If they won't agree to see someone and you are really worried, go by yourself first and get some advice about how to best handle the situation.

Julia Pemberton
Registered Psychologist
Email: juliap@postmaster.co.uk
Phone: 0407 772 410

Mt Lawley Counselling
13 Alvan Street Mt Lawley (Perth), WA 6050
www.mtlawleycounselling.com.au

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