Parents Struggle To Spot The Signs Of Depression In Teens

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Teen Angst Or Clinical Depression? Parents Struggle To Spot The Signs

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Anyone over the age of 12 knows how turbulent your teen years can be. Hormones are raging, tempers are flaring, and mood swings aren't uncommon. So how do parents know whether it's just teen angst or clinical depression?

That's what 40% of parents said they struggle to discern. And 30% say their kids are good at hiding their feelings, making it all the more difficult.

This is according to a new research in a Mott Poll from the University of Michigan.

What's getting in the way.

Both adolescence and parenting come with their own sets of challenges. Teens are trying to figure out who they are while parents just want to help them get there. As teens face higher rates of depression than in years past, parents are struggling to spot the signs.

The study found two out of three parents acknowledged barriers in recognizing signs and symptoms of depression in their middle- or high-school-aged children.

Sarah Clark, MPH and co-director of the poll notes, "The preteen and teen years bring dramatic changes both in youth behavior and in the dynamic between parents and children. These transitions can make it particularly challenging to get a read on children's emotional state and whether there is possible depression."

Some parents, on the other hand—one-third to be exact—said they were sure they'd be able to spot depression in their children. But these overconfident parents "may fail to pick up on the subtle signals that something is amiss," says Clark.


Solutions to the dilemma.

As the statistics show, talking to teens about their mental health is arguably more important than ever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among youth aged 10 to 24 increased 56% from 2007 and 2017 alone. And according to this study's findings, a quarter of parents surveyed said their child knew a peer or classmate with depression, and one in 10 said their child knew a peer or classmate who had died by suicide.

As such, the poll offers some tactics to keep an eye on your child and make sure they're getting the help they need.

Parents are encouraged to find out what kind of services are offered at their children's school, like depression screenings or counseling, and if they're not, advocating for such programs. Parents should also be wary of behaviors like isolation, acting out, and other potential signs of depression in their kids, according to Clark. 

Additionally, talking with teens about choosing a trusted adult to talk to when they're feeling down was listed as another way to help ensure kids have somewhere to turn when the need arises.

Considering feeling understood by your family during adolescence is linked with lower rates of depression in adulthood, it makes sense that opening up the lines of communication helps teens navigate those tumultuous years.

So no matter the method, start talking with your teen about how they're really feeling. Because as alarming mental health statistics continue to rise, as does the need to begin the conversation on mental health.


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