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  • Writer's pictureRMTC Team

Supporting Youth with Depression: A Guide for Parents


Parents playing with daughter

IS THIS... “NORMAL”? 


Everyone experiences sadness at times and feels down, even for a few days at a time, which can be completely normal. This is as true for children and teens as it is for adults; they experience all kinds of pressures and stressors that can bring on the blues.  

Depression is more than a sad day, or two, or few. It is a mood disorder that causes individuals to experience prolonged periods of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of enjoyment in daily life. The World Health Organization’s – Composite International Diagnostic Interview defines a major depressive episode as: “a period of 2 weeks or more with persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in normal activities, as well as other symptoms including: decreased energy, changes in sleep and appetite, impaired concentration, feelings of hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts” (Statistics Canada, 2023). 

It can impact family life, school, friendships, hobbies, and childhood development. It is especially complicated with young people because they are inherently changing and growing all the time. Even more so for teens who are experiencing hormonal fluctuations and growing pains. They experience stresses and challenges that their parents and other adults may be unable to relate to. 

 

WHY IS MY CHILD DEPRESSED?  


As adults, it’s easy to see childhood through rose coloured glasses: a time when playtime ruled, lunches were made for us, and homework was our biggest concern. But that isn’t the lived reality for most youth today. They are growing up in an increasingly complicated world and they face all kinds of risk factors contributing to depression, such as:  


  • Racism and oppression 

  • Trauma and abuse 

  • Physical health issues 

  • Substance use 

  • Major life changes 

  • Divorce of parents and caregivers 

  • Breakups 

  • Conflicts at home 

  • The death of someone close 

  • A big move 

  • Genetics 


The number of young people experiencing depression and other mood disorders has increased in the past 10 years and only half of the people who met criteria for mood, anxiety, or substance use disorders spoke with health professionals about their mental health (StatisticsCanada, 2023). Half of all youth are struggling in silence! Depression often begins between the ages of 15 and 30 but that doesn’t mean it can’t impact younger kids as well (CMHA, n.d.).  

 

WHAT SHOULD I WATCH FOR?  


Kids and teens aren’t always the most forthcoming. Ask yourself: when was the last time you asked your child how school was and got more than “Fine” as a response? If your child is experiencing depression, they may not be comfortable sharing, or they may lack the language to express their feelings altogether. You might notice changes in mood that you can recognize more easily as an adult, signs of being unhappy, worried, guilty, angry, fearful, helpless, hopeless, lonely, or rejected (CMHA, n.d.). If any of these feelings are becoming more common, your child may be experiencing depression.  

Physical signs may be easier for parents to spot. Children may complain of headaches or general body aches. They could experience problems with sleeping or might be tired all the time. You may notice changes in eating habits (too much or not enough), or you may see unexplained weight loss or gain. Any of these, or a combination, could point to signs of depression. Be sure to see your family doctor for any physical health concerns (CMHA, n.d.). 

 

HOW CAN I HELP?  


It can be scary to think that your child might be depressed. Remember: depression is treatable! Though there may not be a quick fix, it is a treatable mood disorder and there are several options that a qualified professional may discuss with you. Counselling and talk therapy are a typical starting point for most children who experience depression, including talk therapy styles like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), or medications like anti-depressants (CMHA, n.d.). 


  1. Don’t be afraid to ask! If you see the signs and symptoms of depression in your child, talk to them using effective communication strategies. 

  1. Focus on healthy habits and mood-boosting activities like exercising, regular sleep patterns, eating healthy foods, practicing self-care, and doing breathing exercises (KidsHelpPhone.ca, 2024) 

  1. Have your child talk to a health care professional, whether it’s a school counsellor, nurse, or your family doctor. If you aren’t sure who to contact, try using the Ontario Health Care Options directory to find local resources.  

  1. Kids Help Phone is a great option if your child isn’t comfortable talking with someone they know. They can call 1-800-668-6868 or talk online anonymously to get support at kidshelpphone.ca 

  1. Looking after yourself while supporting your child is essential. Make sure you do not let your own mental health slip; consider booking an appointment with one of our therapists. 

  1. Though most of our therapists don’t offer children’s therapy, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about options for individual, youth/teen, or family therapy. We’re here to help!  

 

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO? 


Helping your child through depression can be overwhelming so remember to look after yourself and seek support if you need help.  


Katarina Guillen, MA, RP

“Think of the phrase ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’”, says Katarina Guillen, MA, RP. “Parenting a child with increased caregiving needs, such as a child experiencing depressive symptoms, is challenging. Consider reaching out to a trusted friend or loved one, another parent, community groups, or caring professionals that can offer support.”  She adds, “It is always more manageable to support others from a strong base, and sometimes that means attending to your own stressors or finding comfort and support from others. 

 

Looking after your own mental health is one of the keys to successfully supporting your child with depression.  

 

As always, if you are looking to book an appointment with any one of the therapists at Relationship Matters you may contact us via email at admin@relationshipmatterstherapy.com, or by phone at (226) 894-4112. 

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