It’s normal for adolescents to go through times when they feel low-energy, sad and irritable. Often, these low feelings are triggered by a disappointing or painful event, such as a break-up, an argument with a friend or member of their family, or the failure to achieve a goal. The fact that the young person is going through enormous physical, emotional and intellectual changes can intensify their feelings and result in mood swings that are a normal part of growing up. Usually, teens process these feelings and come back to an even keel within a short period of time.
Sometimes the low feelings don’t go away and may even get worse. If this is the case, the young person may have developed depression, which involves deep feelings of sadness and hopelessness. This can last for weeks or months. The longer and deeper the depression, the more difficult it is to recover and the greater the risk of suffering from depression throughout life. Depression often emerges in the adolescent years and affects one in eight young people.
Fortunately, if depression is treated at an early stage, it is possible for the person to make a complete recovery and go on with their lives in a positive, energetic frame of mind. The key is early identification. Watch for the following signs in your child or your friend, if you think they might be depressed:
• unhappiness lasts more than two weeks
• low energy and lack of interest in activities they usually enjoy
• difficulty concentrating, keeping track of details and making decisions
• negative, withdrawn, irritable or even hostile
• not sleeping well or sleeping too much
• low appetite or overeating
• complains of aches and pains
• substance use or abuse
If you notice any of these signs, take it seriously and act quickly. Don’t just wait for the depression to go away on its own. Review the online resources about depression that you’ll find on this site, and learn what services are available in your community. Talk to your teen or friend about what you’ve observed. Encourage them to share their feelings and listen without judging or jumping in. Share what you’ve learned about depression and let them know they’ll feel better if they talk to an expert. If this is your friend, urge them to talk to their parents. If this is your child, make an appointment with a family doctor or therapist or contact Mental Health and Addictions Services at the IWK.