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Initial Steps in Helping Your Depressed Teen

Taking Action to Help a Teen Suffering From Depression

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Updated July 27, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Quick Links: Teen Depression Quiz | Parent's Guide to Teen Depression | Troubled Teens

Depressed teens usually experience significant emotional and sometimes physical pain, but don't usually have any idea what to do to feel better. Parents are usually in the best position to take charge in getting initial help for a depressed teen, here's what you need to know in order to do so.

When to Seek Professional Help for a Depressed Teen

Identifying depression in teens can difficult because it doesn’t necessarily show up in all aspects of a teens’ life and can be episodic, appearing to come and go. But depression in teens is often serious, it is a mistake to wait and hope depression will get better on its own - it usually doesn't.

So when is the right time to seek help for possible depression in a teen? One guideline to use is this: if your teen has significant changes in mood, behavior or personality that last more than a few weeks, it's a good idea to seek professional help to try to determine the reason behind these changes. 

It may not be depression, but any long-term changes in the functioning of your teen suggests a serious problem that needs to be identified and addressed. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when the possibility of teen depression exists, as it may continue to worsen and can even lead to suicide.

Initial Steps in Helping a Depressed Teen - Evaluation

First steps in helping a teen with symptoms of depression are a thorough evaluation by a professional. This crucial step helps provide valuable information about whether your teen suffers from depression, the severity of the problem and what treatment options are likely to be the most effective.

Depending on the available resources and how long it takes to set up an initial appointment, schedule an assessment for your teen with a medical doctor or mental health professional who specializes in helping teenagers.

Consider any of the following options for evaluation of your teen’s symptoms:

  • A medical doctor can order blood tests, review family history, evaluate current medications, sleep patterns and diet in an effort to determine if there is a physical cause for the depression. 
  • An individual therapist specializing in treating teens can evaluate the symptoms based on talking to the teen and family members. This information helps point the way to make specific recommendations for next steps that are likely to be beneficial to your teen. 
  • psychological evaluation or psychological testing, completed by a psychologist over several sessions, provides extensive information about the severity and nature of the symptoms, contributing factors, and the possible presence of suicidal ideation. This option is best suited to cases where the diagnosis is unclear. 

Information revealed about your teens' symptoms in the evaluation plus the recommendations of the professional who administers it, will make it easier to determine the next steps to take.

Quick Links: Teen Depression Quiz | Parent's Guide to Teen Depression | Troubled Teens

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