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Supporting a teen through depression after they have said they do not want help

It’s really tough finding out your teenager is experiencing depression. It’s equally, if not more tough, when they don’t want any help. Whether you think that they’re in denial, don’t understand, or just simply don’t want help for whatever reason, it’s normal to feel helpless and at a loss. As a parent, it’s your natural inclination to want to do everything possible to help your teenager and make them feel better when they’re suffering. With depression, you understand that it’s important to approach this issue early because it can get worse if not addressed. But guess what? There are plenty of things you can do that will be great for your teenager and may even edge them towards accepting further help.

What can you do if you suspect your child has depression?

People with depression often experience lethargy, making doing pretty much anything hard. It’s likely that your teenager is very inwardly focused at the moment and feeling cut off from family and friends. Listening and taking action can be really difficult for them.

After showing that you’re worried and offering support, sometimes you’ll have to be patient. Just because your teenager isn’t taking action, doesn’t mean that they’re ignoring you. Keep talking and being open, even if doesn’t feel two-sided.

 Your teenager may feel awkward chatting to you about what’s up but really want to talk to somebody. You could organise for them to chat to a trusted adult friend or another family member like an uncle or older sister.   Connecting them with this support shows that you care and that you want to work with them as a team to make things better.

 Everyday things to support your teen

 1. Keep them connected

Being socially connected is an important protective factor against depression. Strong friendships can boost self-esteem, create a sense of belonging and build self-worth in teenagers (and adults!). Have a think about your teenager’s friendship group and encourage them to hang out with people you know are supportive and make them feel good. If they’re up for it, offer to take them to social events – removing barriers like having to get on a bus with strangers can be great for keeping them connected. Remember, online connections can be really important too so if your teen has gamer or forum friends, encourage them to stay in contact with these people.

 When somebody has depression, they often find it hard to keep doing the things they usually enjoy. Whether on their own or with friends, it can help to encourage them to keep up with things like music, sport or art, and ask if there are any ways you can help make it happen.

 2.        Make sure they’re healthy

Keeping your body active and moving is particularly important – and also hard - for someone who is experiencing depression. Little things like inviting your child for a walk, swim or a bike ride can get the endorphins flowing and can have a positive impact on their mood. These things can be a circuit breaker which helps them to think about getting help or engaging in other activities that require more focus or concentration.

Eating nutritious meals and getting enough sleep is really beneficial to treating depression. Studies show that young people need at least 7.5 hours sleep each night.  Help your teen establish a routine that will get them to bed with enough time for their 7.5 hours. This might be things like agreeing to put screens away at a certain time, minimising caffeine or practising meditation before bed. If the rest of the family can follow suit with these actions so your teenager doesn’t feel like they’re being singled out, even better!

  3.         Seeing the doctor

Your teenager doesn’t want help with their depression, that part is clear. Perhaps, they’d be ok with going to see a GP about any physical symptoms they’re experiencing. Stigma can be powerful even to this day, and age as well as physical sickness can be seen as more ‘normal’ than mental health issues.

Get them to list their symptoms and how they feel about them. Let them know that talking to a doctor might help with these physical symptoms, getting them comfortable with the general idea of seeking help. Offer to go with them to the appointment but be respectful of how they want to manage their health, including seeing a health   professional on their own.

 4.         Self help

Sometimes giving your teenager some space to discover things for themselves can really turn things around. It helps them to feel like they’re in the driver seat and allows them to form their own understanding of what’s going on. Make them aware of:


· headspace

· BiteBack

· Youth Beyond Blue

· Kids Helpline has lots of information about depression and your child will also be able to hear about strategies that other young people with depression have found useful. This can be a really positive way of managing depression and help them feel connected as your child won’t feel so isolated and alone.


5         Expressing your emotions

Showing your teenager that you’re concerned, care and that you’re there for them is really important. But letting them know all your fears won’t give them the confidence they need to get through this. It’s totally fair to be worried and scared but try to talk to a friend or partner about this rather than your teenager.

 Avoid platitudes like ‘It’ll pass’ or ‘I know how you feel’. Show your genuine feelings, and interest in supporting them but recognise this is not about you.

 It’s not unusual to blame yourself or feel at fault that your teenager feels this way. Try to put this aside so that you can concentrate or how to best assist your child from this point forward. This might involve seeking out separate support for yourself, from a friend, partner etc – find a place where you can talk about your own worries and concerns. Remain calm and non-judgmental. Find a way to express your concerns and keep yourself informed. These are all important ways to help your teen through this. Self-care is essential too, you need to look after yourself first and foremost, even if it’s just so that you can help them.




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