Signs of Depression and Suicide
Whether or not you think your child could be depressed, it’s important to know the warning signs of teen depression. Kids’ depression has many different symptoms, so trust your instinct—you know your child better than anyone else, and can recognize when she is acting strangely. Use these tips to help you keep an eye out for kids’ depression symptoms:
- Take your child seriously. If your child ever says, “I want to kill myself” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” believe it. This is one of the clearest signs of depression in teens and children. Call for help immediately. If it turns out that he was not completely serious, it is still an urgent cry for help. If he was serious, you took essential steps to prevent a suicide.
- Know the signs. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry recommends watching for the following signs of depression in kids and teens:
- frequent sadness, tearfulness, or crying
- decreased interest in activities or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
- persistent boredom; low energy
- social isolation; poor communication
- low self-esteem; guilt
- extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- increased irritability, anger, or hostility
- difficulty with relationships
- frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches
- frequent absences from or poor performance in school
- poor concentration
- a major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
- talk of or efforts to run away from home
- thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior
- Educate yourself. Normal development can sometimes trigger the signs of teen depression. The difference between what is normal and what is not is the number of signs present, how long they last, and how intense they become. For example, young teenagers often refuse to shower at school after gym class. That is normal. Refusing to shower for days at home and wearing the same clothes for a week (even sleeping in them night after night) could be normal, or could signal something more serious—especially if your child is exhibiting other signs of teen depression. Making the distinction between normal, if disturbing, teenage behavior and serious problems is crucial to recognizing kids’ depression.
- Be aware. Know that child and teen depression is happening to kids around you. In fact, a government task force has suggested that all teenagers be screened for depression, since up to 70% of those who are depressed do not receive any help and suffer alone. Learn more about depression screening from About Teen Depression.
Being informed is the first step you can take in preventing serious episodes of kids’ depression or suicide attempts. The transitions from pre-teen to teen and from teen to adult can be very hard on your child—make sure to be vigilant during these trying times and keep your eyes open for signs of teen depression.