Recognising depression in teens

The 14-year-old learner fell to her death at Northgate Mall on the evening of August 11.
Teenage depression is tricky to identify and diagnose.
This is according to educational psychologist Colleen Johnson who says that a child’s behaviour during their teenage years is generally erratic and volatile at times.
“Often teens will withdraw from their families, and prefer to isolate themselves in their bedrooms,” she says.
Johnson adds that when children enter their adolescent years they become moody and irritable, and depression can be missed or misdiagnosed as this behaviour is seen as “normal”.
“The main thing for parents to do is to be vigilant when monitoring their teen’s behaviour.
“If your child is normally bubbly and outgoing and then suddenly becomes quiet and withdrawn with long bouts of sadness, they may be depressed,” she says.
She adds that a lot of the time teens suffering from depression will cut or cause self-harm to themselves.
“If your child starts wearing baggy clothing, covering up or they won’t allow you into their bedroom or bathroom, they may be self harming.”
Johnson suggests that parents also watch what type of friends their child socialises with.
“If your child suddenly starts mixing with other teens who get into trouble a lot and have no supervision at home, your child may model their behaviour after these teens.”
Factors which could add to or cause depression include a crisis in the family, a divorce, loss of income or a death.
“Very often people get caught up in the crisis and don’t pay attention to their children and how they are affected,” she says.
Before depression can be treated, the behaviour needs to be identified.
“Once the behaviour has been identified, the teen should be provided a safe and secure environment in which they can explore their feelings,” says Johnson.
She adds that if your teen is not comfortable talking to you about their feelings, then parents should approach a school councillor, get therapeutic intervention or approach an anxiety and depression group.

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