Preventative Measures You Can Take to Curb Teen Depression
Teen depression is a major issue that many parents and caregivers are unaware of. As you go about your day-to-day life, taking care of your children and ensuring that your household is running smoothly, it can be difficult to think about the problems your teen might be facing at school. Because to parents, those issues are, by comparison, trivial. However, depression among teens is a real problem. After all, one in five teens experience depression before they reach adulthood. To avoid your teen being part of the statistic, here are some preventative measures you can take:
Monitor Social Media
Multiple studies have demonstrated how social media has a direct correlation with teen depression. One study published by the University of Essex and University College London found that teenagers—especially young girls—who spent more time on social media were more at risk for depression. Particularly, 14-year-old girls who spent at least five hours per day on social media were 50% more likely to develop depression.
“What happens with social media is that people tend to compare their insides to the outsides of others,” Psychologist Dr. Alisa Duclos said in an interview. “For woman who are trying to get their sense of self, who are pressured to look a certain way, [they are] seeing images of young woman looking not even real with filters.”
The reality is that too much time on social media is stifling. Another study found that, on average, teens spend nine hours per day on social media platforms. Those between the ages of 8 to 12 spend six hours per day on average. This high level of screen time can affect a teen’s behavior in multiple ways. After all, high social media usage has been associated with poor sleep, low self estate and self-image, and online bullying.
For this reason, it’s important to have candid and honest conversations with your teen about how much social media time is acceptable. Both Android and Apple have screen monitoring apps that allow parents to see how much time is being spent on certain apps, without intruding too much on personal privacy (screen monitoring isn’t the same as screen sharing, where you can see exactly what’s happening on a mobile device).
Health plays a huge role in the onset of depressions, and it’s important that you lead a healthy life by example, just as you would want them to live theirs. It wouldn’t make sense to provide them with healthy dinner meals while you ate junk food constantly. Be a health model in your household. Encourage them to participate in sports or exercise at home by going for a run with you in your neighborhood. Cook healthy breakfasts and dinners, and get them involved in the healthy lifestyle by asking them to assist you in the kitchen or work out with you periodically.
Pay Attention to Signs of Bullying
Today’s social media age has made it easier than ever for children and teens to get bullied throughout their school years. And unfortunately, there is a major link between bullying and teen depression. Studies have found that nearly 30% of students between grades 6 and 12 experience bullying at some point. Another study showed even more dismal results: 50% of students between grades 4 and 12 admitted to being bullied at least once in the past month.
As a parent, it can be difficult to understand when your child is being bullied, or even to be empathetic about it. For many years, parents and psychologists alike couldn’t believe that the young mind was even developed enough to experience depression, especially as a result of bullying—an act that many people consider just a normal part of the grade school experience.
However, many teens have taken their own lives as a result of bullying and the subsequent depression. Some teenagers have broadcasted their deaths on social media networks like Facebook. Here are some of the signs you should look out for:
- Decreased sense of self-esteem
- Changes in appetite (eating too much, or eating too little)
- Decline in grades
- Difficulty sleeping at night
- Excuses for not going to school
- Frequent headaches
- Grades slipping and warnings from teachers
- Increased desire to be alone
- Injuries that cannot be explained
- Lost items, like textbooks, jewelry, and other personal items
If you notice any of these signs, please seek teen depression treatment immediately. Far too often, parents and caregivers wait until their teen is in crisis mode before they intervene. By addressing the situation early, you can circumvent the long-term consequences and potentially fatal outcome of bullying.
Encourage Their Passions
Whether your child loves writing, football, or fashion design, it’s crucial that you encourage those passions. “The more you can support your children to continue to do things that bring them joy and make them happy and make them feel masterful, the better off they are,” says Dr. Gretchen Gudmundsen a psychologist practicing at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
Think about ways you can help nudge them in a positive direction by allowing them to hone in on what they’re passionate about. For example, why not allow them to participate in workshops, attend a summer football camp, or intern at a fashion magazine? Talk to them about what they enjoy doing most, and how you can help them to build onto those hobbies.