One in five teens experience depression at some point in their teenage years. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately, 8% of teens meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. Perhaps you might not ever experience depression, but you might have a close friend who does.
If you suspect depression in a friend, it’s important to take action in some way, especially if you feel the depression is interfering with your friend’s relationships, school life, and overall well being. And more importantly, if you feel your teen is suicidal, then seek help immediately. Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death of adolescents. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that there are as many as 25 attempts of suicide to every one that is actually committed. Although there are many reasons that might cause a suicide attempt, the most common is depression.
Here are some steps to take if you have a friend who is depressed:
1.Gently share your concern with your friend. Depending upon how close you are, your friend may or may not open up about their feelings. But if they do talk about what’s going on, that alone can be a big help. Keep in mind that admitting to depression can be difficult; there continues to be a heavy stigma with depression and most mental illnesses. At first, your friend may not be willing to talk . In fact, you might even be intimidated to start this conservation. However, acknowledging that you’re concerned and want to help is a good way to begin.
2.Encourage your friend to talk to someone. Now that you’ve opened the door to talking about depression, there’s a greater chance that your friend might be willing to talk about what’s going on for them with an adult they trust. You can suggest that your friend talk to a school counselor, teacher, or parent.
3.Talk to an adult yourself. Your friend may not be ready to admit to feeling depressed for many reasons. Not only can stigma prevent someone from doing anything about their depression, but admitting to depression also means being responsible for it. Your friend might be confused about what to do, whether something is going to happen if his family and other friends know, and whether there are consequences to admitting mental illness. However, if your friend is suicidal, it’s important to get help. You may want to talk to an adult that also knows your friend. Let them know about your concern.
4.Get to know the illness of depression. Depression is a common mental illness among teens, but it’s different than feeling sad. For many teens, there will be periods of sadness during adolescence. Teenagers may experience discouragement, feelings of not fitting in, uncertainty about the future, an inability to meet the demands of parents and teachers, and this may result in a sullen mood. However, feeling sullen and feeling depressed are two different experiences. Depression has clear physical symptoms such as irritability, guilt, loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts, poor concentration, poor memory, indecision, slow thinking, loss of motivation, sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, fatigue, and headaches.
These are suggestions for assisting a friend who you feel is depressed. As mentioned above, depression can ultimately lead to suicide and loss of life. Getting support for your friend from an adult you trust may be the best step to take.